Top 4 Nonprofit Recruitment Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Top 4 Nonprofit Recruitment Challenges and How to Overcome Them

There is a world of difference between corporate recruiting and nonprofit recruiting. The latter is a more challenging task because of several reasons. The key reason is obviously the lack of resources for nonprofits that corporates have ready access to, which is why nonprofits have to be extremely cautious when recruiting staff for their operational needs.

A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies reveals some interesting facts about nonprofit organizations. Around 12.3 million paid staff members are employed by nonprofits, accounting for 15 percent of all private jobs in the U.S.

Despite their pivotal role in the employment market, Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) still face some tough recruitment challenges. As donors are not offered attractive tax incentives, NPOs lose out on funding opportunities. Limited financial resources, in turn, act as a stumbling block in attracting high-quality talent.

Nonprofit recruitment has always been more difficult than conventional recruitment but today the challenges are greater. Here are some of the key challenges faced by NPOs today and the solutions that can be applied to overcome these challenges.

Limited Budget

  • A limited budget adversely affects every step of the hiring process.
  • Nonprofits have to keep the hiring costs low and they often have to advertise on free job boards that do not attract great talent.
  • A high-end third-party professional hiring agency is out of reach for many nonprofits for the same reason.

How to Overcome This:

Many small and medium-sized organizations are also facing the problem of budget constraints in their recruitment process. They are using technology to deal with the problem. NPOs can look for engaging and cutting-edge software tools to achieve their recruitment goals even with a limited budget. Advanced video interviewing software, like HireVue, are the best solution according to many top recruitment experts as they can cut down time and cost required for recruiting.

Lack of Professional Hiring Expertise

  • Nonprofits generally do not have a dedicated recruitment department.
  • The recruitment task is not an ongoing one for smaller NPOs and when they have to hire a new team member, it is usually handled by personnel with limited recruiting experience.
  • However, they cannot be expected to carry out the task as smoothly and perfectly as a professional HR executive would.

How to Overcome This:

Once again, technology can be the savior. Full-service recruitment automation software can review applications and create a shortlist quickly and efficiently. The shortlist can then be sent to a hiring expert to further trim the list based on specific parameters such as age, experience, achievements, and location. Some software systems allow the setting up of custom filters to create a final list of applicants that meet most of the critical qualifying parameters.

Dealing with a Limited Talent Pool

  • Nonprofits often have to pick and choose from a limited talent pool.
  • As mentioned earlier, many nonprofits work on a limited budget and don’t have access to high-end recruitment portals or databases. Hence, they don’t have access to a larger talent pool.
  • Lower remunerations and compensations can also act as a deterrent in attracting capable and experienced candidates.
  • Lack of market recognition is another reason why NPOs are unable to attract the best talent.

How to Overcome This:

Create a sense of responsibility and social duty around the job title and urge applicants to explore a different way of serving the society while making the best use of their talents and skills. You will find that some talented men and women ready to compromise on salary and job status if they believe that a job with an NPO allows them to fulfill their social and community obligations or to make a meaningful contribution to the society. Also, you can outsource to recruiting experts who can use their experience and their own talent database to meet your requirement.

Another possible way of working around the problem is to hire differently abled people. There are many qualified and talented individuals from the differently abled talent pool that are generally overlooked by corporates. You can utilize the services of other nonprofits and government organizations working with differently abled people that can assist you in accessing this talent pool.

High Attrition Rates

  • Most NPO offices are often devoid of fancy settings and modern touches.
  • Employees often have to work in minimalist settings and perform tasks that go beyond the definition of their job title.
  • The work processes and settings can be quite demanding and may result in employees getting jaded and burnt out quickly.

For many, NPO employment is like a fill-in-the-gaps situation where you just pick up any job available till you land the big one in a swanky corporate outfit.  Poor job satisfaction coupled with almost fewer growth opportunities result in more employees leaving these jobs in search of greener pastures.

How to Overcome This:

The process could take some time and effort but NPOs must make sure that the shortlisted candidates are dedicated to your cause. In fact, this must be one of the prerequisites in the list of qualifications. Consider candidates that share the same passion for the ideals and goals of your NPO over those who are more skilled. You can also shortlist candidates who have volunteered with an NPO before. Get a commitment from them that they will stick to their job and work as a team to help achieve the organization’s objectives. Creating an environment of like-minded employees is the best way of preventing attrition. Have clear core values which you adhere to and encourage in the organization.


Nonprofit organizations must take a good relook at their hiring process and make it a part of the culture. They must keep looking for external fresh talent at every available opportunity to broaden the hiring pool and have a shortlist ready for use as and when needed. NPOs must also be more focused on using cutting-edge technology to help streamline the hiring processes.

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