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Human Resources Guide for Small Nonprofits:
How Do You Find the People You Need?

Easy. You've got your wonderful job description, now all you have to do is put an announcement in every major paper and on all the relevant web recruiting sites.

Well, it's that simple if you have an unlimited budget, but when money is tight, you need to be strategic in your advertising. Don't worry, it can be done! You might not even have to spend a dime. There are lots of creative things you can do to get the word out, but be aware that there may be special laws that require you to publicly advertise, especially if you receive any kind of government funding. Consult the "Know the Law" section of this guide for more information.

To begin your search, it will help to create a realistic profile of who your candidate could be. Consider the salary you have to offer, the minimum requirements of the job, and where on someone's career path this job is likely to be. Also take into consideration your location. If you recruit outside your area, who is likely to move to where you are?

While many people from all walks of life work for non-profits, there are two pools of people who are more likely than others to work for less: young people and senior citizens! Young people will see experience as a particularly valuable currency, while older adults will appreciate opportunities to serve their community, utilize their skills, and mentor others. Keep this in mind as you search.

Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Look close to home first. Is there a current employee who could move up? Does anyone in your office know someone who would be good for the job?
  • Put the word out to your board. They may know people, too.
  • Use your network! Ask colleagues in your field if they know of anyone.
  • Contact the career services centers in local universities. They'll be happy to post your ad for free as a service to their students.
  • Utilize message boards at relevant venues around your area.
  • Libraries sometimes keep files with current job openings.
  • If you have a web site, post your announcement!
  • If peer organizations have web sites, create links to your site or share a job announcement page.
  • Look for online resources that provide free advertising to non-profits.
  • Become friendly with the editor of the newspaper and convince him or her to run your ad for free!
  • Pester a reporter to do a story about your organization, or the benefits of working in non-profit, and mention that you're hiring.

It never hurts to ask for donations or discounts. If the answer is no and you need to pay for an ad, no one is going to turn your money away.

If you do purchase ad space but have to limit your text, go with the job requirements or provide a phone number for people to call for more details. Someone can be passionate about kids, but if the only experience they have is a few years of babysitting, you're not necessarily going to hire them to design your mentoring program. Reading through cover letters and resumes of inappropriate candidates may be amusing, but it's a waste of time when you need to get down to business.

Where you choose to advertise is important. Advertising in the Chronicle of Philanthropy for a development director or executive for your well-established and nationally recognized organization is a good choice. But if you're looking for a program coordinator for your small community development organization in Bedford, Indiana, soliciting a national applicant pool may not be the best use of funds or time.


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