Essentials of Nonprofit Talent Management

Steve Tompkins
April 1, 2022

If you don’t have a formal plan to guide your nonprofit’s talent management strategy this year, you aren’t alone.

Only one-quarter of respondents to Nonprofit HR’s 2022 Nonprofit Talent Management Priorities survey reported having an official talent management plan in place.

An effective nonprofit talent management strategy could make the difference between your organization achieving your mission or not having the talent in place to carry out your nonprofit’s goals.

Here’s how to develop an effective talent management process for your nonprofit organization, to help you reach even your most ambitious goals.

Determine Your Talent Management Priorities

Without the right people in place at your nonprofit organization or social enterprise, your mission will fail.  

Start by breaking down your aspirational mission into action-oriented goals to gain a clear picture of your current talent and future needs.

Here’s how human resources leaders in the nonprofit sector can become more intentional and strategic about talent management.

Align Your Talent Strategy With Your Mission

Your mission is your nonprofit organization’s ultimate goal. You’ll need to align your talent strategy with that overarching goal to make sure you have the human resources and people processes in place to achieve it. 

Work with your organization’s CEO or executive director along with other nonprofit leaders to understand your mission at a more granular level:

● What is the timeline for achieving your most aspirational goals?

● What factors, internally and externally, could hinder your progress?

● What factors can you leverage to move forward faster?

Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to identify specific factors that could influence your ability to achieve your mission. Look at your talent strategy, and ask:

● Does it align with your mission?

● Do you have the programs and processes your organization needs to leverage opportunities and overcome threats?

Move from the big picture mission to targeted objectives that continuously move the mission forward.

Turn Your Mission Into Action-Oriented Objectives

Answering the above questions and conducting your SWOT analysis helps you break your mission down into specific, action-oriented goals. The mission statements of organizations in the nonprofit and social sector can be vague, so you need to translate your mission into clear actions you can take to achieve it.

Without taking this step, you won’t be able to identify and meet your talent needs.

For example, the nonprofit Tipping Point in the San Francisco Bay Area lists this as its mission: “We build community to advance the most promising poverty-fighting solutions.”  That statement on its own is broad and vague. But when you look at Tipping Point’s 2021 impact report, you can see how the mission has been broken down into specific initiatives with clear metrics.

Work with leaders to apply the same process to your mission. You may need to help executives articulate the components of your mission and prioritize those that can have the most significant impact with the lowest output from your team.

Identify Your Talent Needs

Once you’ve broken your mission down into actions and objectives, you can assess your current talent within your organization to determine if it will meet your needs. If your workforce’s skills, abilities, and competencies today aren’t enough, you can begin making plans to fill any gaps.

If one of your quarterly objectives is to increase awareness of your organization and its mission, what actions will you take to achieve that goal? For example, you might need to produce and distribute higher-quality content. Do you have the marketing bandwidth internally to make that happen? Do you have a pipeline of marketing freelancers you trust to support your content strategy?

Deciding which objectives are the most important allows you to prioritize your limited budget and human resources appropriately.

Improve Your Talent Processes

Your people processes are an essential piece of your talent management strategy. Once the right people are in place, you must turn your attention to engaging, managing and developing that talent to carry your mission into the future.

Build Culture and Drive Engagement

Mission-driven organizations rely on culture and engagement to build momentum for the brand. Organizations dedicated to social innovation, sustainability, or other aspirational goals can be highly marketable to like-minded people. But mission alone won’t bring in the people and resources your nonprofit needs to drive results.

You have to be intentional about building your internal culture to drive engagement from employees, volunteers and donors. Take a critical look at your culture as it is now:

●  What do employees and volunteers love about it?

●  Is it the sense of belonging, collaboration or community that draws people in?

Look at the negative perceptions of your culture, too: What do people dislike about your culture? This is a tough question to ask and even harder to answer, but you need to identify and overcome cultural weaknesses that put your brand—and your mission—at risk.

With a clear idea of how to shape your culture, you can develop processes that support where you want to go.

Manage Employee Performance

Performance management is a vital component of your nonprofit’s talent management strategy. Nonprofits need to manage executive, employee and volunteer performance to enable the organization to scale and grow.

You need systems in place to ensure that employees, from the executive level down, are all meeting their performance targets to keep your mission on track. Many nonprofits develop special policies for reviewing the CEO or director’s performance in collaboration with the executive board —especially if their performance is directly tied to compensation.

And while you probably won’t have a sit-down performance review with your volunteers, you can monitor their performance, too. This is important for compliance since volunteers mishandling sensitive information could pose a risk to your entire organization. But monitoring volunteer performance also helps identify their strengths so you can optimize their time and contributions.

Develop Channels for Upskilling Talent

Nonprofit organizations must keep talent developing and moving within the organization. In a nonprofit, you may hire candidates because of their passion for your mission. But these candidates— though invested in the work you’re doing—may have skill gaps that prevent them from achieving their potential.

This is especially true of volunteers who are coming to work with you specifically because they believe in your mission.

Develop clear training and professional development programs to get employees and volunteers alike up to speed. Identify the skills that are the highest priority and create modules for those first. For example, employees or volunteers working with domestic abuse victims need to know how to communicate with the people your organization serves in meaningful, helpful and compliant ways.

Offer opportunities for leadership development, too. You need leaders with passion and drive to carry your mission forward, and you can begin sourcing those candidates from among your current workforce.

Hold Your People Processes to a High Standard

Since nonprofits are mission-oriented organizations, many choose to set a higher standard in their operations than those set by private organizations. Here are some of the criteria your organization must uphold to remain credible in the nonprofit sector.

Focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are among the most critical ethical pursuits for nonprofit talent management. Organizations that don’t take steps to close gaps in pay equity, for example, or hire and support more employees of color risk reputational damage.

Start by identifying your most significant weaknesses, and then set some specific goals to overcome them. If employees from historically excluded groups are leaving at higher rates than employees who aren’t from those groups, you need to find out why. Then develop a plan to better support those employees.

Offer Fair Compensation and Total Rewards Packages

Nonprofits are driven by philanthropy and altruism. Anything that undermines your sincerity — like not paying your employees competitive rates or allowing them flexible work options — can put your reputation at risk.

Research standard total rewards offered by comparable nonprofit organizations. Use this information to keep your offerings competitive. In addition to external research, survey employees and listen to their needs to refine your total rewards program further.

Refine Your Values and Ethics

Values and ethics are crucial to talent management in nonprofit organizations. Lay out a clear code of ethics derived from your values statement. Include specific actions and behaviors to illustrate your values in daily life.

Share Your Progress and Priorities With Stakeholders

As you invest in the essential components of nonprofit talent management at your organization, it’s vital to take your stakeholders with you on that journey. Transparency around how your organization operates is key to satisfying current donors and attracting new ones.

Even if you haven’t yet reached the level of talent management success you’d like to achieve, sharing your priorities for the future supports transparency. You can demonstrate that you’re aware of any weaknesses in human resources or people processes and that you have a plan in place to overcome them.

That transparency and accountability go a long way when funding and working towards achieving your mission are on the line.

Steve Tompkins
HCM Solutions Consultant
Steve Tompkins is an HCM Solutions Consultant at Criterion HCM and is located in San Diego, California.

Related Posts