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?

Start with your existing staff and board members. Have them put some effort into thinking about who they see as a future leader. Ask them to share the job posting directly with at least ten people. These can be people that they think might be a good applicants or who they think might know some good applicants.

Can you provide referral incentives? Hiring bonuses have become common recently but referral bonuses are also valuable. Your great staff probably know other people who might be a good fit to work at your organization. What can you offer your staff? What’s the value of a great hire to the organization? Take a portion of that and offer it to staff as an incentive.

Be sure to look at your current staff as well. Often, the best employees are already working at your organization and looking for new responsibilities. How can you mentor them to be ready to take on bigger challenges?

Another great source is to consider volunteers, both yours and those at related organizations. Having a passion for your mission is a huge factor in the excitement of a staff person to stay engaged in the work. Start with those who already care – your donors and volunteers. You never know when someone is looking to make a career change. Reach out to those frequent openers of your emails and ask if they have someone in their network who wants to work for you.

Remember to get outside your networks as well. Nonprofits benefit greatly from a diversity of perspectives. Recruiting and hiring diverse candidates needs its own blog post but it is important to consider what you are doing to reach more than the “usual suspects”. Reach out to people who have expansive networks that don’t overlap with yours. For example, can you talk with a leader who is a person of color? They could recommend a wide variety of candidates you aren’t connected to. Or how about a leader with a disability? Look for a leader of a different generation than your usual groups as well. Just like recruiting board members, looking outside your usual network can have a big payoff.

Of course, all the traditional methods are still valuable. For high-level positions, LinkedIn is definitely the place to start, as are any local nonprofit job boards.

Finally, as you do get candidates, make sure you keep them informed about how the hiring process is going. Most candidates are looking at multiple positions. If your offer takes a while, especially when they aren’t hearing anything from you, you risk losing a great hire.

Need to talk through your recruitment strategy? Looking for professional help with your search process? Contact me at and we’ll chat.

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