November 21, 2017

Five ways nonprofits can leverage for-profit talent

Corporate sector hires bring skills that can help nonprofits infuse purpose, process and professionalism into their own passion for social change. Here’s how nonprofits can manage this new talent coming their way.

3 min read

With over 3.3 million organisations, the Indian nonprofit sector is the largest in the world, according to a 2009 study by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), India. In comparison, the US has around 1.5 million nonprofits.

A 2012 study by CSO estimated that around 18.2 million people were employed by some 2.2 million nonprofits covered, which works out to roughly one in every eight adults outside the agricultural sector.

The talent influx

In recent times, the nonprofit sector has seen robust growth, aided substantially by increasing philanthropy and the mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) introduced in the Companies Act, 2013. With this size and growth, nonprofits are emerging as noteworthy employers and there has been an influx of talent into this sector, particularly from the private sector where attrition is high.

What nonprofits may lack in remuneration, they more than make up for in social purpose. But they are also realising that the social good that they seek to deliver needs to be done in the most efficient, impactful and sustainable manner.

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For that to happen, it is important to infuse purpose, process and professionalism (3Ps) into the passion for which nonprofits are known. These 3Ps, typically hallmarks of the corporate world, can benefit the nonprofit world greatly.

However, in a sector where about 73.4 percent organisations have at the most one paid employee, and only about 8.5 percent have more than 10, engaging with a workforce that has formerly worked with corporates can be a challenge. Given this, how can nonprofits manage and leverage corporate sector talent well?

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Five ways to manage your corporate talent

1. Actively build your brand

Prioritising your organisation’s branding and visibility will increase the likelihood that ex-corporate candidates, many of whom have limited knowledge about the nonprofit sector, will have some exposure to your work.

Related article: Communications 101 – Talking about your nonprofit

Your brand should reflect your organisation’s work and culture. Do not create a public image for marketing purposes alone. It is important to have a clearly stated mission and use the right set of keywords across all collaterals and platforms, including your website and social media.

Steps like these attract the right kind of people aligned to your organisation’s vision and can reduce attrition.

2. Create volunteering opportunities for potential candidates

Many corporate employees are wary of plunging into the social sector in a hurry and see limited volunteering as a first step of engagement. Nonprofits can benefit from creating such opportunities from their existing needs; this will provide exposure to both parties.

To begin with, it is best to look at organisational needs or generic programme management support rather than tasks tightly linked to programmes. This will ensure that deliveries do not suffer. Make use of social media, online platforms and existing CSR partners to reach out to volunteers. Ideally, a middle or senior manager should handle volunteer management to identify potential candidates for deeper engagement.

3. Look for passion, hire for professionalism

While evaluating a candidate’s suitability for a role, the key is to ‘look for passion and hire for professionalism’. To ensure professionalism and a win-win outcome, set clear objectives, goals and deliverables for the engagement, no matter how small. This will also eliminate the frustration for the person coming from the corporate sector where profits are the only metrics for measuring success.

Related article: A partnership for good

4. Try different models of engaging ex-corporate candidates

Consider new models of engagement (with a clear framework) to maximise the skills of seasoned professionals from corporates. Some of these models may not align with traditional work allocation patterns, such as having one programme manager hold everything together. But, if the engagement creates value for your organisation, look at creating frameworks that will make it work.

5. Don’t forget change management and sensitisation of employees

Last but not the least, such efforts should not destabilise the organisation’s structure. It is important to facilitate interactions and learning between new entrants and old timers who carry the legacy of the organisation. Sensitisation across the organisation is key to make this work so that people recognise the value of the new employees and how their skills can be leveraged for greater impact.

Finally, remember that there is no ‘bad hire’, there is only a ‘bad hiring process’. Follow these tips to avoid bad hiring and benefit from corporate sector talent.

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Sumathy Krishnan-Image
Sumathy Krishnan

Sumathy Krishnan is the executive director at a Bangalore based nonprofit, Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE). She wishes that fundraising should not be more complicated than the problems we use it to solve. She can be reached at [email protected].