For those in the Not-for-Profit or charity sector, recruitment can be a challenge. Hireserve has been fortunate to work with numerous non-profit clients and we have seen that one of the major challenges these organisations face is hiring and retaining the best talent. The post-pandemic war for talent has only exacerbated these problems.

Pinpointing exactly why this is such an issue for the sector is no easy task. It may be easy to say that one of the reasons candidates choose other jobs in the corporate sector over charity careers is the issue of payment. And while it’s true that salaries are generally lower for staff at non-profits, its also worth considering that compensation might be the main driver behind why someone would want to work for a charity. In fact, many who do work jobs in this sector do so voluntarily.

But beyond the issue of compensation, there are numerous other challenges facing Non-profits. Work can frequently be required outside of normal 9-5 hours, which can lead to burnout, especially with the unique emotional and mental strains that are common to work in the sector.

So, with those challenges in mind, how can charitable organisations appeal to the best candidates and build a successful recruitment strategy?

Focus on Mission and Purpose

It might sound woolly, but the conventional wisdom is that a lot of people jump at the opportunity to work in the charity sector because they care deeply about what the organisation stands for and the work that it is doing, either in the local community or on a grander scale. Research suggests that millennials – who make up the bulk of the workforce – are the most generous – and the most likely to get involved in volunteering.

This suggests that, rather than compensation, what might draw a lot of people to work in the non-profit sector is that drive to be involved in the community, to help others, or make a difference.

Organisations that are better able to communicate and articulate this sense of purpose and vision may find it easier to attract the best talent.

In the case of charities, this can mean that passion can be more important than experience or skillset – if the goals of your organisation resonate with candidates, they will more readily understand and accept the challenges they will face in the job, and that can protect against burnout or dissatisfaction in the future.

Improve Employee Experience and Engagement

This is something that comes from the top down and must inform not just the brand but all activity. Employers must help to make their staff feel empowered; that their actions are making a difference, allowing staff in every role to feel as though they are genuinely contributing and involved in the success of the organisation.

These are the kinds of intangibles that you cannot put a price on, but they do start with the culture of the organisation – one that prioritises employee experience. Demonstrating supportive and flexible environments will always play a key role in hiring and retaining staff. Processes and policies that underpin this will demonstrate a commitment to this mission.

Of course, with charity roles with a clearly defined purpose and impact on the community also brings the risk of stresses and problems that are unique to the sector – there are emotional hardships that go along with these roles that mean that work-life balance is crucial in these environments. This is another way in which being able to demonstrate the right culture is beneficial when it comes to recruitment. Candidates want to feel supported.

The impact of employee experience cannot be overlooked – happy employees are more likely to go above and beyond – and that starts with promoting good relationships with employees. Again, the need for open communication and transparency can drive these positive relationships.

Provide Opportunity for Professional Growth

A focus on personal development is key for organisations in the non-profit sector. Whether you are hiring for paid or volunteer staff; part-time or full-time, candidates want to feel that there is going to be opportunity and investment in their growth and development.

Opportunity for advancement is one of the major reasons why employees stay in a job or with a particular organisation. Staff want to expand their professional skills, and charities and not-for-profits need to recognise the need to have a development and training program in place.

Once these programs have been scoped and put in place, its vital to communicate them to candidates during the recruitment process.

This goes hand in hand with searching for passionate individuals rather than prioritising skills and expertise – for the right hire, any skills that they lack can be overcome with training and professional development. For jobs in the charity sector, the most important thing is to identify potential and have the necessary processes and programs in place to nurture that talent.

For high-performing members of the team, there needs to be a path towards more senior or management roles. For part-time or volunteer individuals, can there be a path towards full-time employment? Having the structure in place to help staff grow and develop also means that organisations can look to promote from within instead of looking to hire from the outside – a much more cost-effective solution.

Automate Administrative Processes

For many non-profit organisations, the focus on vital work in the community may leave limited funds to invest in platforms or software. While the mission and critical fundraising efforts often take priority when it comes to allocating funds. The question may be, how does recruitment software like Applicant Tracking Systems improve those efforts?

Well, the answer is that investment in software can significantly impact the time to hire and help drive ROI on recruitment efforts. There are numerous elements of the process – scheduling interviews, contacting candidates, posting opportunities to your careers page or the right job board, and conducting background checks – that can be extremely time consuming when done manually. With staff potentially stretched as it is, this type of activity can be a time-sink, making the hiring process significantly longer than necessary.

An ATS can automate these tasks, freeing up time for the much more important aspects of the recruitment process, namely meeting with candidates, making decisions and onboarding new hires. For a charity or a not-for-profit organisation, using software can make an enormous difference to cost of hiring the best talent.

Whether you’re recruiting for part-time or full-time; volunteer or paid positions, the right software such as an ATS will allow organisations to build hiring pipelines, application forms, automate communications with applicants and speed up the time it takes to evaluate candidates.

At Hireserve, we care about helping non-profit organisations hire the best candidates. We’ve put together a guide to help Not-for-profits evaluate the ways an Applicant Tracking System can benefit the recruitment process.

If you’d like to understand more about how this software can help your organisation, book a demo with our team today.

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.