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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofit recruiting strategies improve organizational effectiveness?

Moths around a campfire

An important factor that several nonprofits fail to initially consider is how they can sustain programming beyond the initial stages. It should be a high priority for any nonprofit to build itself into a stable entity before trying to save the world. Without stability, the organization will not be around long enough to continually realize its mission.

“For the social enterprise movement to realize its potential, organizations will need to invest in the recruitment, development, and growth of their future leaders, just as for-profits do. People provide the real growth capital for any enterprise — and make it possible for them to have an impact,” writes Gerald Chertavian in the Harvard Business Review. Leaders who wish to successfully run a nonprofit and continue to positively impact society in the future will need to focus their energy in three key areas: staff recruitment, fundraising, and donor and staff retention.


An essential part of creating an effective and sustainable nonprofit is recruiting the right people. Top talent is difficult to find and even more difficult to hire. “Managers across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are increasingly recognizing that employees are their organization’s most important assets and that the most significant source of competitive advantage comes from having the best systems in place for attracting, motivating, and managing their organization’s human resources,” according to Debra Mesch. Being aware of the benefits that a diverse work environment in the twenty-first century has on its staff and community is a fundamental requirement for any organization. After enticing talented individuals, nonprofits need to retain talent.

When hiring, nonprofits compete with the public and for-profit sectors because despite the passionate people have about giving back to society, they still have financial and personal commitments. To attract the talent necessary to create the impact society needs, a nonprofit needs the tools to persuade staff to work in the social sector as opposed to the private or public sectors. “If nonprofits can't get quality employees, their fundraising will suffer, their program delivery won't be as strong, and their expenses might increase due to decreased productivity and efficiencies,” says the Houston Chronicle.


If donors only wish to support program spending, a nonprofit cannot survive. In terms of fundraising, nonprofits need to be clear when communicating with funders; acting as if the organization has no overhead expenses is not viable. Nonprofits are businesses, and they need funding to cover operating costs for office space, salaries, stationery and more. Nonprofit leaders know this, and it is crucial for them to share it with their funders. Nonprofit leadership will have to educate current and potential donors about the necessity to provide the organization with the revenue needed to function at an operational level or preferably, at an optimal level.


To search for and hire the right people, every nonprofit should have at least one dedicated human resource (HR) professional. An HR professional brings four important dimensions to managing staff: 1.) recruitment, 2.) review, 3.) compensation, and 4.) professional development. Workplace stress, communication with coworkers and leadership, and the culture of the workplace are all factors that affect staff retention. An organization that implements policies that benefit members of staff such as flexible hours, virtually work environments and the options of childcare support allows more satisfied employees. Having a professional dedicated to creating and managing these policies will free up leadership to concentrate on their mission. “Organizations that build robust infrastructure—which includes sturdy information technology systems, financial systems, skills training, fundraising processes, and other essential overhead—are more likely to succeed than those that do not,” write Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

For a nonprofit organization to improve its effectiveness, it should focus on three main areas: hiring the right talent to achieve their mission and goals, obtaining adequate and continuous funding, and hiring an HR professional to manage the talent from recruitment to retention. These factors will ensure stability for the organization, and better prepare it for current and future clients, staff, and funders.

Azra Hussain is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. She is the co-founder and president of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona, where she trains speakers and creates educational interfaith events. As a speaker, she presents mainly on beliefs and practices, gender roles in Islam, and conducts Cultural Sensitivity Training for law enforcement, healthcare personnel, and educators. Creative interfaith programs that Azra designs are intended to bring people face-to-face in the same space to interact and get to know one another. She and her husband have four children and have lived in Arizona for over 40 years. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with an Islamic Studies Certificate from Arizona State University.


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