August 06, 2012
Seeking CPAs: Key Questions to Ask Before Issuing a Request for Proposal
Perhaps thanks to a tough economy in which job-seekers are often unqualified for the few jobs that are actually available, nonprofits are gaining recognition for being ahead of the pack in their move to retrain employees for new positions. Actively teaching job seekers skills that will help them move into new industries, across many sectors of the economy, nonprofits with job retraining programs are helping to lower unemployment related costs.
Placing even more workers than many government-funded programs, as found in this article by The NonProfit Times, the ongoing trend is more than promising to the unemployed.
Instead of being set back by the economy and their lack of government funding, many nonprofits are helping more and more workers, both with and without successful employment histories, find gainful employment by offering high-class workforce readiness programs, new employment training, mock interviews, and resume coaching. Teaching out-of-work job seekers to translate and hone their already established skills into skills for their new positions, the programs are highly successful in getting applicants placed in long-term jobs.
Providing courses and training to applicants of all ages and most backgrounds, the push to re-employ America is strengthening the economy and lowering unemployment insurance taxes for employers
Bridgestar, an initiative of The Bridgespan Group, has created a Hiring Toolkit to help nonprofits better enhance their internal effectiveness and more quickly fill new and recently opened employee positions.
After a study conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions reported that43% of nonprofits are expecting to add to their staff in 2012, as reported in our March 26th post, it is becoming increasingly important that nonprofit hiring teams are thoughtful and proactive in developing their own hiring toolkit.
Hiring toolkits help nonprofit hiring teams draft the strongest job descriptions, write the most compelling job ad, and outline how to select the best candidate. But, most importantly, they strengthen agencies abilities to compete with for-profit companies who are offering similar positions at typically higher pay rates.
Because the findings of the Nonprofit HR Solutions study “suggest that the nonprofit sector should be more focused on retention practices than it is currently,” it is even more vital that hiring teams know exactly who and what they are looking for when reading through stacks of resumes and applications.
Bridgestar suggests that hiring teams create a system for reviewing resumes to improve the chances of including “the most relevant candidates” and “uncovering those hidden gems.” To do this, they’ve offered 4 reviewing steps:
Step 1: Agree on your resume review process and how each team member is going to be involved before looking at any application packets.
Step 2: Organize the cover letters and resumes you receive in order of receipt to speed the reviewing process. Let the candidates know that you have received their resume and will be beginning your review process shortly.
Step 3: Review each resume packet thoughtfully and objectively. Knowing what core criteria are most important for you, and where you are willing to bring a candidate up to speed helps process resumes; similarly providing the review team with key questions to keep in mind when reading each resume helps sort through applicants who aren’t adequately qualified or don’t fit your mission.
Step 4: Make the interview decision and let applicants who are not selected down easy. For applicants the hiring team wants to speak with further, discuss what more should be learned about them in phone, and eventually, in-person interviews.
As the nonprofit job market grows stronger and more job opportunities are being created across all sectors, agencies must be more competitive in selecting and retaining qualified applicants. Read more about Bridgestar’s suggestions for Processing Applications and Screening Resumes.
According to many recent reports and articles, turnover may be the new normal for NPOs. In a society where the average number of careers changes in a person's lifetime is reportedly 5-7, this may not be shocking news. But recent turmoil in nonprofit hiring and employee satisfaction has nonprofit leaders in a quandary. Can we embrace this new normal but also shift our practices to increase employee satisfaction?
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy: "Four out of five charity workers are actively seeking new positions—or would be if the economy were stronger, according to the survey of 672 people. Nearly 40 percent of employees said they are dissatisfied with their work."
Much of the dissatisfaction is a result of the economy adding new pressures to employee workload. With fewer employees to do the same amount of work or more, positions are becoming less specific and more generalized, giving employees little sense of accomplishment or ownership over their work. In addition, loss of a sense of job security has given many nonprofit workers reason to seek employment elsewhere. Finally, under-appreciation of employees has set them up to under-achieve and potentially just leave.
Joanne Fritz, writer for the About.com Guide for nonprofits, says in her recent post: "What these employees want is what all workers want, whatever sector they work for: professional development, the chance to advance, clear expectations from managers, participation in the decisions that affect them, and a feeling of being valued."
If the nonprofit sector is going to thrive in this new normal, the new nonprofit employee will need more out of their position than just the feel-good nature of their work. Leaders and human resource professionals at these organizations will need to:
1. Provide Education. Giving employees a chance to hone their skills and build management know-how will not only give them a sense of relevance and job security, but it will refresh your NPO's overall strategies and outlook.
2. Recruit Wisely. "Make employee recruitment an ongoing activity" says Fritz, so that your organization stays aloft regardless of turnover. And to reduce turnover, new tools like online assessment tests can help ensure you're finding the right candidates.
3. Give Feedback. Being involved in your employees' performance, providing rewards and discipline, helps them feel like they are part of a greater mission. By documenting performance, you can also save your organization from suffering from inappropriate unemployment claim costs down the line.
4. Embrace Technology. Giving employees opportunities to work from home with cloud technology and utilizing new online and social media tactics will help employees feel they are working for an organization that stays ahead of the curve and appreciates new ideas.
5. Be Flexible. When compensation dollars are limited, you can boost morale by using other incentives like quality of work life rewards and training opportunities.
Nonprofits who rely on state and other government funding should prepare for a bumpy road ahead in the next couple years says a new report produced by independent philanthropy consulting firm “Changing Our World, Inc.” Although the economy is seeing a shift toward the positive, state tax revenue – and therefore funding for many nonprofits - is nowhere near stable. And while the number of nonprofits has been steadily rising over the past 15 years, charitable giving has dipped significantly and would need an unprecedented rally to make up for the government funding shortfall.
Since World War II, the average recession in America had lasted 10 months. Until Now.”
Unemployment alone has created a crisis in many states. In fact, 44 “crisis states” have significantly reduced spending and are expected to cut spending even more (by $38.5 million) in social services, education and Medicaid says the report. Despite $1.5 trillion of American household wealth lost in just the first three months of the recession, philanthropy on the other hand, has been making modest gains and is expected to slowly trend upward. But the dollars are spread thinner as the number of nonprofits increases and the demand for services explodes. As the Chronicle of Philanthropy put it: "To help nonprofits cover cuts in those services, households in the hardest-hit states would have to step up their giving by 30 percent in 2011 and 60 percent in 2012—an increase the report says would be 'historically unprecedented.'"
So what’s a nonprofit to do?
The report concludes that a multi-faceted strategy is needed for every nonprofit. Waiting on philanthropy or government funding to recover won’t work. “Philanthropy will be an important, indeed critical piece of that strategy, in part because philanthropy is often flexible and can fill in gaps not financeable through other means. However, the sheer weight of the burden will require that multiple revenue pathways be opened as well as that every managerial option for efficiency be considered.”
For nonprofits looking for a guide to this multi-pronged approach, we gleaned these tips from the report:
• Efficiency – Reach out to unemployed workers to become volunteers, possibly with a stipend. You’ll not only give them a step in the right direction but you’ll receive valuable man-hours.
• Collaboration – Reducing overhead costs is possible through a number of collaborative efforts like merging of back offices, joint purchase of property, combination of nonprofits with similar programs into a single service network, etc.
• Messaging - When asking for donations, emphasize progress instead of crisis. Talk about all the good the organization is doing in the face of the economic crisis, not how it’s struggling.
• Financial Expertise – Learn more about managing cash flow and accounts receivable so you can weather late payments and financial dips. Become your own expert on economic trends. Also think about adding people to the board with financial expertise or government experience.
• Don’t Rely on One Source - No more than 60% of any program’s budget should come from government money.
• Maintain a Reserve - This fund should be triggered only by the Board or the Finance Committee, and saved for lean times.