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Nonprofits Hiring Like Startups, Startups Hiring Like Nonprofits

Hiring goals:

  • People with passion.

  • People who are efficient.

  • People who have the ability to work outside the box.

  • People who are willing to take a 30% salary cut to work for you vs. Wall Street.

These are some of the similarities of startups’ and nonprofit organizations’ hiring goals. Both types of employers need to hire top talent quickly and with limited resources, but how do you eke out your competition for the best recruits? There are lessons to be learned from both nonprofits and startups.

Nonprofit Hiring Techniques

“Do What You Love”

Nonprofits are the traditional “do what you love, do what you are passionate about” kind of organization. All startups, no matter the mission, should embrace this mindset. Millennials want to know they’re making a difference in the world while doing something they’re passionate about. Make it known to them that their work is fulfilling this need.

Corporate Social Responsibility

The term corporate social responsibility refers to the idea of how companies positively impact the surrounding community and environment based on the work they do. This has become an essential part of millennials’ (ages 18-29) employer requirements.

Nonprofits very clearly state their mission, which is a positive impact to the community in just about any way you look at it. While the mission of startups may also be beneficial to the community, they will likely have to work a bit harder to prove that to the masses.

If your startup is looking for CSR ideas, a great place to start is by reviewing corporate giving programs at companies which donate to nonprofits.

Some examples of social responsibility with startups include Toms and Solve Sunglasses. The goals of such organizations are to help those in need while simultaneously selling products that clients love to wear.

Benefits to Soften the Salary Blow

We get it – salaries are not going to be top of the line for startups or nonprofit organizations. But what you can do to soften the blow is offer benefits of some kind. Many nonprofits offer complete benefit packages including health and dental insurance, FSA accounts, generous time off, and discounted gym memberships. Startups may not be able to achieve the glorious perks that can make your company the talk of the town in the beginning, but there are other ways to soften the salary blow.

Perhaps it’s flexible hours, opportunities to work remotely, or even a small equity stake in the business. Just remember, any kind of small perk your startup offers can be a huge draw.

Employee Engagement Opportunities

This is a huge draw of nonprofit organizations – allowing employees to make impacts in their community in other ways than just by sitting at their desks. The job description shouldn’t be the stopping point of an employee’s engagement. Think outside the box and find ways for your employees to engage in the community. In fact, Causecast calls “Community Impact the Hottest Fashion for Employee Engagement.” Startups would do well to hop on the fashion train.

Cause Marketing Opportunities

Cause marketing is a partnership which involves a mutually beneficial relationship between a nonprofit organization and a corporation. Top talent may be turned on by the prospect of being able to work and help grow such an important relationship.

And partnerships between corporations and nonprofits aren’t limited to large organizations. There are plenty of corporate giving programs that work well for smaller startups and local organizations.


Startup Hiring Techniques

Look Outside the Box for Recruits

More often than not (especially in the beginning), startups have even fewer resources and less funding than nonprofit organizations. So, to obtain talented employees, startup executives must look outside the normal realms of job descriptions.

Startups look for people with an equal amount of passion and also the ability to get it all done. There is so much more that startups look for than just what is on an individual’s resume. Nonprofits can learn that they don’t need to be restricted to the general run of the mill job descriptions for very concrete positions.

Responsibility from Day One

Did you know that Ivy League grads in recent years tend to prefer technology startups over Wall Street jobs? Startups offer more responsibility from day one, the promise of growth, and the mindset that an employee should hit the ground running. The idea for nonprofits is not to have jobs with set boundaries and limited responsibilities, possibly dimming the prospect of growth.

Network Network Network

This is not to say that nonprofit organizations don’t do their fair share of networking, but startups need to start from the very beginning in order to pique any interest in their mission.

Sometimes nonprofits can get complacent with their community status and not get out there as much, but meeting new people on a constant basis not only refreshes interest, but has the potential to bring in new and talented recruits!

The Promise of Strategic Involvement

If a nonprofit can learn anything from the hiring techniques of a startup, it’s this – involve your employees in conversations about strategic planning. The promise of including them in the expansion of your organization is a win-win situation. Employees feel included, thus bringing their A-game to the table, and the organization reaps the reward of a proactive employee.

Again, we are not saying that some nonprofits don’t do this already, but experience has shown that it’s not an offer all nonprofit organizations (especially those that are fairly well established) bring to the table.


double the donationAdam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, a company which helps nonprofits raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. 

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Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, a company which helps nonprofits raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.