Hiring to Retain: A Quick & Easy Guide for Nonprofits

How your nonprofit approaches the hiring process sets the tone for the entire employee lifecycle, including whether you retain an employee for the long run. 

And for nonprofits working with limited resources and competing with for-profit organizations for talent, retention is critical. Retention leads to organizational stability, allowing you to work toward long-term goals and develop leaders who will one day take charge of driving your mission forward. 

So, how can you more effectively hire new team members with retention in mind from the beginning of the process? In this quick and easy guide, we’ll explore three best practices your organization can adopt, whether you’re looking for a new major gifts officer or social media marketer: 

  1. Craft compelling job postings.
  2. Implement effective screening and interviewing techniques.
  3. Optimize your onboarding process.

As you begin optimizing your hiring process, you may find it helpful to work with a nonprofit HR expert, like a consultant. The beauty of working with a third-party consultant is that they can often provide a more objective view of your strategy and identify any gaps or weak spots that need to be addressed. 

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Craft compelling job postings. 

When a job seeker first encounters your open job posting on a platform like LinkedIn or Glassdoor, it’s your chance to make a great first impression. That means your job posting should be engaging enough to catch a job seeker’s eye and get them interested in learning more. 

Here are some tips to ensure your job postings are positioned to engage the top talent out there looking for an open role in an organization like yours: 

  • Work off of your organization’s job descriptions. According to Astron Solutions, a job description is a “written statement by an organization describing the duties, responsibilities, required qualifications, and reporting relationships of a particular role.” However, most of the time, job descriptions are internal documents whereas job postings are public-facing documents used to attract talent. That being said, ensure that your job postings always align with the job description for the role. 
  • Include essential elements. This might include any or all of the following: job title, job summary, organizational overview, work format, required qualifications, relationships to other roles, and additional items like an EEO or at-will employment statement. You should also include information about your compensation and benefits, especially if you’re required to by local or state pay transparency laws. 
  • Put a big focus on your organization’s culture. Include a few sentences about what it’s like to work at your organization. Here’s an example: “At Turtles Forever, we’re a team of high achievers that cares deeply about sea turtle conservation. We enjoy launching environmental advocacy campaigns and hosting weekly beach cleanups. When we’re not at work, we’re probably enjoying the great outdoors or browsing one of our local bookstores.” This gives job seekers an idea of what the nonprofit’s working environment and the common interests of their team are like.

Most importantly, a strong job posting will encourage job seekers to take action and apply to your open role. Ensure you provide clear application instructions to remove any roadblocks to kick-starting the process. 

2. Implement effective screening and interviewing techniques. 

Once someone has applied to your open position, it’s time to begin evaluating them and determining whether they’ll be a good fit for the role. Think of this stage in two parts: screening and interviewing. 


Screening will help you narrow down your pool of candidates to those who meet the basic qualifications for the role. This helps ensure that you’re focusing your time and resources on candidates who are actually good fits for the open position. 

Screening may involve:

  • Resume and application reviews 
  • Skill or aptitude assessments 
  • Brief phone interviews 

Many hiring platforms and application tracking systems (ATS) can help you automate and streamline your screening tasks, which can be especially useful when you have dozens or even hundreds of applications to sort through.  


After a candidate passes through the screening process, they are further evaluated during an interview or round of several interviews. In interviews, you:

  • Ask candidates structured, open-ended questions, including those that are behavioral-based
  • Dig deeper into their backgrounds and experience
  • Gauge their interest in the role and your cause
  • Evaluate whether they would be a good cultural fit 

Interviews also allow candidates the opportunity to get further insight into the role as they ask questions about potential responsibilities, growth opportunities, and compensation particulars. 

Once you’re confident that you’ve found the right candidate for the role you’re seeking to fill, you can extend a job offer. To encourage employee retention at this stage, be clear with the job candidate that you’re looking for someone to fill the position for the long term. You may also highlight the benefits of staying with your organization for a long time, such as leadership opportunities or annual retention bonuses. 

3. Optimize your onboarding process.

Onboarding and training a new employee may feel like a process you need to rush through to get someone up and running in their new position. However, onboarding is a critical stage that lays the groundwork for what an employee’s experience will be like with your organization, and thus whether they want to keep working for you for the long term. 

Just take a look at some of these eye-opening findings from a recent survey about onboarding conducted by Paychex

  • 70% of employees believe onboarding can either make or break a new hire’s experience at an organization.
  • 80% of new hires who have a poor onboarding experience plan to quit their new role. 
  • When asked what would improve their onboarding experiences, 22% of survey respondents said involving more team members, 18% said creating a more welcoming atmosphere, and 14% said addressing professional development. 

Clearly, onboarding is something worth getting right. But how can you refine your current process to be sure that new hires feel prepared to succeed in their roles? Here are a few tips: 

  • Give your onboarding process a clear structure that includes orientation sessions, training modules, discussions about potential career paths and development opportunities, and chances to interact with a variety of team members. 
  • Create a buddy or mentor program, pairing new employees with experienced team members who can answer questions and provide support. 
  • Facilitate opportunities for all team members to get to know new hires, such as inviting everyone to join new hires for lunch on their first day.
  • Create a checklist that outlines everything new employees need to learn and allows both you and them to track their progress over time. 
  • Recognize onboarding accomplishments, like earning a certification or learning how to use a core tool like your CRM
  • Ask for feedback at the end of onboarding so that you can continuously improve the experience for future employees.  

Put your best foot forward when it comes to onboarding new employees at your nonprofit. As you do so, you can be confident that new employees feel welcomed, well-equipped to do their jobs, and engaged in your cause, which will significantly impact your efforts to retain them now and in the future.

Hiring a new employee at your nonprofit represents a significant investment of time, effort, and resources, and once you have a talented individual join your team, you’ll want them to stick with you for as long as possible. 

Use the best practices outlined above to improve your hiring process so that you’re hiring new employees with retention in mind from the beginning. And don’t forget to carry that focus on retention with you throughout the employee lifecycle, prioritizing things like career development opportunities and employee engagement efforts. As you do, you’ll strengthen your team and make more progress toward accomplishing your mission. 

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