Hiring the First Executive Director for Your Organization

You’ve started your nonprofit organization and it has grown with the help of an amazing team of volunteers. But now it is getting too successful. You and your fellow volunteers have full-time jobs and can’t devote the time to the nonprofit that it really needs. What’s the next step? Hiring someone is a big decision and has the possibility of growing the organization significantly. But it also comes with a lot of challenges as the current board and volunteers are used to doing things their way and need to be ready to let someone else take over.

Hiring that first staff person can make a tremendous difference for your organization. It levels up your work in a way that is hard to imagine in advance. Having paid staff means you have someone with the time to devote to the work and to building relationships in the community. It also means someone who has professional experience in nonprofits or who has the time to dedicate to learning about how nonprofits best work. And finally, having paid staff often leads to more stability in your organization as compared to an all-volunteer group. Funders and potential partners will take your organization more seriously if you have paid staff – they know you are going to be around and doing the work long-term.  

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Grants Management Software & Spreadsheet

Below are a few options that were reasonably priced, well-liked, and cloud-based. It was hard to find options as many lists for “grants management software” were for funders. Here are three options that are a step up from the basic spreadsheet that most of us wind up using. The other option is of course to use project management software, especially if you are already using it to manage other projects. Some CRMs also include it as a function. Both of those are beyond the scope of this article.

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Nontraditional Ways to Recruit Nonprofit Candidates

Hiring a new staff member? Once you’ve put together a great job posting, it’s time to start finding great candidates. In the past, you could expect people would find you but with the incredible competition out there for great workers, that’s not enough anymore.

Job illustrations by Storyset

Especially for high-level positions, remember that your best candidates have jobs already, and may not be actively looking for a new position. How can you find those folks and encourage them to apply?

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The Little Book of Boards – Review

The Little Book of Boards: A Board Member’s Handbook for Small (and Very Small) Nonprofits

By Erik Haneberg

A client recently introduced me to this wonderful book on board work for small organizations, which describes most of the organizations I work with. It’s a well-written overview of how boards can work best and how to avoid the pitfalls that many of us fall into. There aren’t a lot of good resources for small organizations out there and this book really fills the gap. It’s also easy to read.

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Crafting a Compelling Job Posting

Too often, job postings are simply a copy of the internal job description. They’re long, not too interesting, and aren’t going to cut it in today’s competitive environment. With fewer people applying for positions, you need to stand out from the crowd.

Your job posting is a marketing document. It’s advertising your organization and the great job opportunity you have. A generic laundry list of duties and requirements won’t excite applicants or tell them what the job is really like. Emphasize the job is about making a difference. And keep it to the point. Experts say a job description should be 500-600 words.

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The Number One Reason You Should List Salary Ranges on Nonprofit Job Postings

Over and over, I see job postings from nonprofit organizations that don’t list salaries. Instead, they say things like, “Salary shall be commensurate with experience.”, or “The company offers a competitive wage and excellent fringe benefits package including health, dental and life insurance, and tuition reimbursement.” It’s nice to know there are benefits, but the salary range is still the primary piece of information.

Employers have budgeted ranges for each posting, so why can’t they disclose the details? Do they hope they can find someone who will work for less than they budgeted? No one would admit to doing that, but it is likely that some organizations do it. Are they embarrassed by how little they are paying? They need to be upfront about it, and then work to change that in the future. Are they just following the lead of corporate job postings? How about doing something different and being transparent about what you are able to pay?

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Succeeding as an Acting Executive Director

Being promoted to acting executive director can be an honor but comes with its fair share of stress. You are suddenly taking on a new set of high-level responsibilities while still trying to maintain your existing work. There’s a huge advantage to the organization to temporarily fill a position internally. It is a fairly fast and simple process, but there are significant challenges to overcome.

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Building a Nonprofit Career

The nonprofit sector here in Lincoln has many fantastic leaders doing great work. Some are executive directors and program managers, other are committed case workers and fundraisers. How can you be part of this cadre of people? Here are some beneficial tips to become a true nonprofit leader.

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Leading for Justice – Book Review

Leading for Justice by Rita Sever is well worth reading for anyone who supervises or manages others at a nonprofit. She has put so many nuggets of wisdom into this book. You will get a wide variety of great ideas on how to work with people more effectively, efficiently, and most importantly, in a way that they feel valued and heard.

She addresses every relevant topic for supervising people, including supervising remote staff, dealing with burnout, holding staff accountable, and much more. Some of her advice covers things I’ve learned the hard way, other suggestions were completely new to me. I appreciated her emphasis on making sure you are holding regular one-on-one meetings with staff to make sure everyone feels heard and to clear up problems before they become big issues.

She also shared a lot of good information on the role of HR, at what point an organization needs an HR professional, or at least someone who has that duty formally added to their position. While HR professionals can sometimes emphasize potential legal consequences to actions more than staff want to hear, they are a valuable partner in the health of an organization and the happiness of its staff. HR is someone who is not the boss but is someone people can go to with problems. They are looking out for employees’ well-being and helping train supervisors. All of these important roles are vital to an organization’s success.

Sever weaves in a focus on justice throughout the whole book. She includes many lessons that she has learned along the way as a nonprofit staff member, leader, and consultant. This includes ways to see your own privilege and questions to ask yourself. She also talks about the need to understand the unwritten rules in your workplace so you can examine them more closely and how they might impact those who aren’t part of the group in power.

Leading for Justice is available on Hoopla or at your favorite bookstore.

Creating a Crisis Communication Plan

Communicating effectively and quickly to your stakeholders in an emergency is an important part of building trust within your community. Imagine the difference between hearing through the grapevine that an executive director was fired, versus hearing from the organization directly that there’s a change in leadership and a plan to move forward with an interim or acting leader. In the first situation, you don’t know what has happened or why, and you don’t have any idea what is happening. It seems like the firing happened suddenly and without any thought. In the latter situation, you know the board took careful and thoughtful actions. Even if you disagree with their process, you know that the board recognizes the repercussions of their decision.

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