Employees are a company’s greatest asset—after all, how much work would get done without them? Even with the greatest technology and resources at our fingertips, we still need people to utilize that technology to grow our business. We need that sharp administrator to log onto the computer to set appointments, do payroll, and manage employee files; we need that marketing guru to grow the business through the web and social media outlets; we need that tech genius to run our computer equipment and create databases to better manage our data; and we need that expert manager to ensure everything is operating the way that it should.
So what happens when a company does not have the sufficient personnel to keep their business operating smoothly? Chaos, anxiety, tension and stress ensue from overworked, tired, and overwhelmed employees.
While staffing can be a challenge for any type of business, it is of particular concern to those in the nonprofit sector as they often operate on very tight budgets and very limited revenue. As the CEO of RosaLuz, a nonprofit children’s charity founded in 2014, I’ve had to find creative ways to meet the staffing needs of the organization in order to allow us to operate from start-up and grow. While volunteers are essential to nonprofit organizations, I knew that we would need to find other creative ways to recruit paid personnel in a way that would not break our limited budget. I was equally concerned about the necessity of ensuring that we not only had the amount of staff that we needed, but also that we had the right staff. I wanted to recruit people who believed in our organization and our mission, who were excited to come to work every day, and who were hungry to learn more and grow with us.
When considering how to find a solution to our staffing needs at RosaLuz, one of the first things to come to mind was the internship I had during my graduate study. My time as an intern was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was a chance for me to actually put into practice all that I had learned throughout my university studies. Furthermore, it boosted my resume by adding work experience, provided me with great work references, and ultimately allowed me to obtain a better job with better pay upon graduation. I knew RosaLuz could do the same for other students eager to learn and enter the workforce.
I reached out to local schools Charleston Southern University (CSU) and Trident Technical College (TTC) to begin my search. CSU allowed me to apply for their career fair which proved to be one of the most successful recruitment opportunities for our organization. We advertised our internship opportunities and received dozens of applications for our open positions. As a result, The RosaLuz Communications and Marketing team was born. TTC also provided a few opportunities that could help meet our staffing needs. They had internship opportunities that we could post and also offered a work study program for students. The TTC work study program is only available to nonprofit organizations and we qualified, so we chose the latter. We posted a position through their student employment office to recruit students in need of a work study program to offset tuition costs, and we received a few applications. Through the work study program, students can work up to 20 hours a week. The students are paid $10/hour through this program all of which is managed by the school. All we would have to do for the students to be paid is submit a timesheet monthly to the school and report the student’s progress during the work study program.
A crucial part of this process to consider, especially as a young organization like RosaLuz, was being comfortable with writing out both the positions we needed filled as well as the kind of qualifications we wanted to see in the individuals who would fill them. The students seeking opportunities through the outlets I mentioned are motivated and excited—it was important to prove to them we were ready to engage their talents and use them on our team to help make a difference to the underprivileged and at-risk youth we serve at RosaLuz.
Internships and Work Study programs benefit both the intern and the nonprofit organization who invest in them. Interns help fill a staffing need in exchange for real world experience, career development, and references beyond their internship. They are eager to learn and highly motivated to put their education into practice. While there are some drawbacks to having interns–limited availability, limited work experience, and turnovers at the completion of the semester–interns provide a much greater advantage if the organization is willing to invest a little time. By placing our interns in their respective areas of study, giving them clear direction and expectations, and providing a little training, our interns have been a valuable asset to our organization at minimum to no cost. As a nonprofit organization with a limited budget and very real staffing needs, these students have been a positive solution to our staffing concerns. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!
The programs I discovered at both CSU and TTC are not unique to the Charleston area; colleges and universities everywhere have similar programs that want to provide your organization- nonprofit or otherwise- with the driven and talented professionals your team needs to advance. It’s up to you to take advantage of programs like this, and to use them to provide strength and growth in your organization!
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.