Optimize Your Fundraising Team with Human Data | npENGAGE

Optimize Your Nonprofit Fundraising Team with Human Data

By on Nov 26, 2018


hiring for a nonprofit

At this year’s bbcon, the Blackbaud Institute was thrilled to welcome Tim Kachuriak to give a presentation on what he knows best: how to optimize your team with data. As a member of the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact’s new advisory board and CEO of NextAfter, Kachuriak discussed how using human data can transform the hiring process of your organization and ensure that top candidates are the best fit for the role.

Kachuriak and the NextAfter team conducted a survey among 500 nonprofit executives, consultants, managers, and practitioners. Assessing core traits relating to behavior and motivation, the results reveal three key insights that affect the hiring behavior of nonprofits:

  1. Nonprofits seem to be hiring at random.
    • Survey data revealed that 61% of hiring managers primarily rely on resumes for their hiring decisions. However, 85% of resume items are exaggerated, embellished, or a lie.
    • 92% of job roles are not aligned with behavioral skills, making it more likely that a person’s job is a less-than-ideal match with their personality.
  2. Most nonprofit jobs seem to be a dead end.
    • 54% of all survey respondents said that they have job descriptions so general that they must remain flexible to do whatever is asked of them. In turn, this discouraged staff from developing expertise in their role.
    • Only 8% of nonprofit employees were provided with a full career development plan, demonstrating that most staff lack clear career paths to grow their skills, let alone grow within their organization.
  3. Nonprofits remain concerned about employee retention and fit.
    • 68% of nonprofit employees believe that all or part of the positions in their organization are held by the wrong type of people.
    • At the same time, 40% of all organizations reported problems with retention. Among those employees that had been with an organization for less than five years, the turnover rate was 70%.

Though some of these statistics might seem alarming, organizations need not fear. As Kachuriak mentions, there are a variety of easy, affordable solutions that every team can use to bolster their hiring processes.

Step 1: Reboot how your organization thinks about acquisition

  • Take an inventory of all job descriptions within your organization. Ensure that each description focus on what the role is, as well as what it is not.
  • Emphasize benchmarking within each job description. In doing so, clearly outline the hard and soft skills that will help an employee excel in that position.
  • If you’re able to afford it, consider screening your top candidates with an assessment. Through behavioral and motivational evaluations like the TriMetrix™ report, human data reveals core aspects of personality and behavior that can indicate whether candidates may be a good fit in a specific role or organization.

Step 2: Cultivate your top candidates

  • Take advantage of the onboarding process to lay out the culture of your organization. Be clear about the values, environment, and expectations that each staff member will step into why they join your team.
  • Emphasize personal development for new staff throughout their first 30 days on the job. If your organization conducts behavioral or motivational assessments, encourage team members to look through their own human data so they can better understand their skills, strengths, and even their blind spots.
  • Teach people to get better at their craft. Be generous with opportunities to develop expertise by attending trainings, conferences, or other skills development seminars. Many of these can be found for free, or at a low cost from local nonprofit associations, universities, or foundations.

Step 3: Strategize appropriately for retention

  • Take a more holistic approach to performance reviews. Instead of relying on feedback from supervisors, invite individuals from across your team to offer multiple perspectives on performance.
  • Encourage employees to grow their hard and soft skills. Incorporating exercises that grow emotional intelligence and empathy can strengthen team dynamics, while preparing staff to take on greater leadership responsibilities in their current role and beyond.
  • Not all organizations may be in the position to motivate their staff with raises or promotions, but special opportunities like team lunches or gatherings can incentivize your team toward productivity. After all, the office place is an opportunity to share life, together.

The use of human data is only becoming more vital to the success of organizations. By understanding these trends and incorporating them into your recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies, you’ll provide your team with tailored and sustainable opportunities for engagement.

For even more insights into how human data can optimize your team, check out the full report.


Gabrielle Torres is an Editorial Production Coordinator at the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact. She came to Blackbaud after serving as an AmeriCorps member at a community farm and youth development nonprofit in Austin, Texas. With experience in research, data collaboration, and writing, Gabrielle is passionate about using technology and innovation as tools for social good. When she’s not plugged into her Spotify, you can catch her jogging Austin’s trails and admiring fresh produce at her neighborhood farmers market.

Comments (58)

  • Gavin Mann says:

    Really interesting article with some great tips – thank you!

  • Melissa S. says:

    These tips are very helpful. Thank you!

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    Wow, the statistics in your key insights are staggering, and kind of depressing. Your tips are fantastic, and I hope a lot of people get some use out of them.

  • Barb says:

    Interesting statistics!

  • Amy Dana says:

    I hope we can keep working to change the culture of “non-profit = low pay.” We need highly-skilled experts as much as the for-profit world!

  • Karen Stuhlfeier says:

    885% of people embellish, exaggerate or lie on their resume?

  • Cammi McKinney Derr says:

    Love this article, but it just seems more like a fantasy for our organizational culture.

    • Carrie Aranda says:

      The ability to do any of this is highly dependent on organizational culture. I work for an organization that is actively working to change their culture. As the culture changes, most of what this article says is naturally following. However, we have to be very intentional about organizational culture otherwise it will undermine any efforts made.

  • SC says:

    Interesting and enlightening. Will share in our org. TY

  • Joe H says:

    This reminds me of a quote I recently read: “Grow your people so they’re qualified enough to leave you, treat them well enough that they want to stay.” The point on training is key, however the day-to-day management of employees is the more-important other side of the coin.

  • Sunshine Watson says:

    This is fascinating! Thank you.

  • Linda McMillan says:

    I’ll be sharing with our management staff as we are looking for several new employees.

  • Veronica says:

    Good article. We recently went over our job descriptions and are in the process of getting new titles with more specific duties.

  • christine says:

    thank you!

  • Lyne Labrecque says:

    I have to say that I have been lucky recently. The manager is doing all of the above and, as she is new in the position, was able to reassign the employees to the tasks they prefer and are the best at. Way to go!

  • Steve Walsh says:

    Beyond specific skills, training, and experience so called “Core Traits” has to include reasoning, critical thinking, and the willingness to take calculated risks and the ability to tactfully and strategically challenge and question “management.

    On the company side, it needs to challenge it’s staff, be willing to be challenged and questioned, allow it’s staff to take calculated risks and allow their staff to fail. Also need to allow staff to be “devil advocates” and ask whys, and how about doing it this way. Encouraging “outside the box” thinking is always helpful.

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Heather says:

    Great tips, thank you! So true to my office.

  • Rachel Bailey says:

    It’s so hard to get out of that “other duties as assigned” bucket, especially in a small shop where everyone performs multiple roles. Great suggestion for really defining what is (and isn’t) someone’s job.

  • Peggy says:

    I’m glad to see these statistics. I have witnessed this hiring behavior and always wondered if it was “just me.” I feel like the attention to detail in hiring practices has really declined over the last decade. It would be interesting to see the same statistics from 15 years ago.

  • Jennifer says:

    So interesting! I’m shocked at the percentage of false information on resumes.

  • Mary Sommer says:

    We review position descriptions almost every time an opening occurs. As a non-profit, it is difficult to provide a long term career path.

  • Sarah says:

    The statistics are so surprising! Lots of room for work in nonprofit hiring/retention.

  • Lisa says:

    This was one of the highlights for me at BBCon this year. Too bad HR wasn’t there!

  • Leslie says:

    Nicely done – I’ll share this internally

  • R.S. says:

    This is a dream I wish was reality. How have orgs. routinely responded to staff asking for more pay? Find a different career. That, with long hours and lofty demands, results in high turnover. Why are job descriptions vague? Because the managers or those in charge of hiring have no idea what the job entails. All of these tips are really good for a proactive non profit, but the statistics are sadly accurate.

  • KaLeigh says:

    Very interesting points. My position is new, and my supervisor struggled with the job description, because she didn’t know what my job would turn into. This is great for future reference

  • Allyson says:

    Interesting stats, great tips!

  • Angie Stumpo says:

    Job descriptions have always been a tough thing in our org. Good tips!

  • Claudia says:

    We’re looking at our job descriptions right now, interesting article .

  • Kelsi says:

    I really appreciate this article! Puts some concrete data and words to thoughts we’ve been working on for some time.

  • Karina says:

    Great article. Interesting facts.

  • Tiffany says:

    Interesting insights! As we have just reassessed our teams job descriptions, it seems that is only on part of the overall process in bolstering employee success. Great article, I will pass this along.

  • JK says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful article!

  • Stephanie Boyce says:

    Really makes you think!

  • Courtney says:

    Helpful tips. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gillian Armstrong says:

    These are some excellent points– especially the suggestion of having performance review contributions by people within the dept, rather than just the supervisor.

  • Brett Chapman says:

    Interesting, Thanks!

  • Rob Crenshaw says:

    I wish most of the conclusions in this surprised me, but they don’t. It seems like many nonprofits still struggle to implement proven HR practices, despite the even greater need they have than for-profit companies to conserve resources around retaining quality employees. Great food for thought!

  • Jessica says:

    We struggle with this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cathy says:

    Thanks for the info!

  • Stephanie Crawley says:

    This. This is a very important article. Thank you!

  • Sage says:

    This is great! Drawing attention to a culture shift in nonprofits is essential!

  • Carlene Johnson says:

    Very timely article with some wonderful insights. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alicia Barevich says:

    I would not have guessed that that many resume items are exaggerated or a lie. I guess I’m too honest! 😛

  • Jen says:

    Good insight. Sharing with HR!

  • George Buss says:

    “Teach people to get better at their craft.”

    Solid advice. Thank you.

  • Sandra Ross says:

    Really interesting article. Shared with our Human Resources department.

  • Gwen says:

    Great article. It is important to develop a good team and hiring the right people is key. Too often organizations generalize roles. It is important to have a clear understanding of what each role is truly responsible for. Developing your team positively will increase retention.

  • Matthew Morrow says:

    Having the right people makes all the difference and good data helps to get good people.

  • Linda Mikelson says:

    Thank you.

  • Julie Ann says:

    So true! I would definitely like a clearer path for advancement (if there is one…)

  • Julie says:

    Lots to think about from this thank you

  • Erin Parks says:

    Great tips; thank you. We have been struggling with retention and, though we are moving in the right direction now, I think these will help us even further.

  • John Mercer says:

    This is great data and backs up what everyone knows, employers must educate, support and challenge their employees if they want those people to stay. The reason that the field is so “fluid” is that nonprofits are not hiring the right people in the first place or taking care of the good ones they have.

  • Brittany Ivey says:

    Having been in the nonprofit industry for years, I have certainly seen this in action – regardless of org size. Thank you for the insight!

  • MK says:

    I really like #1: Nonprofits seem to be hiring at random. Yes! I know I’ve worked with some really random people over the years.

  • Claudia says:

    Wow this is such an insightful article and as a nonprofit worker I can definitely see some of these things playing out in a real way. I think resources are limited in terms of nonprofit hiring which in the end perpetuates a lot of these problems. However we all need to take a step back and evaluate for long term success.

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