Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nonprofits Will Improve Themselves Seeing Beyond Their Organization's Culture

Hiring for culture is important (especially so that everyone works constructively for the nonprofit's mission, together) but hiring only people who look like the movement behind, or passionately ascribe to, our field or work and our mission statements may not be the best for the organization.

For example, let's say that you are a long-time, experienced, successful, talented bookkeeper who has worked with four different nonprofits, one after the other, over twenty professional years of work. You have an interview Monday at 2pm with a new potential nonprofit employer; and you love their work and successes in the community. You know that you'd be an excellent addition to their team. If you walk into the interview with the talent and knowledge that the organization needs to operate excellently: you would trim their costs, increase efficiency, increase reporting and transparency, and provide these and more abilities that would potentially increase community buy-in, the number of volunteers they recruit and retain, and the numbers of and amounts given by new donors; then you are the solution to the hole that they have in their staff roster, right now. What sometimes happens, though, for different reasons (perhaps due to the culture within the operation, or maybe due to an idea in the organization that it preserves the cause, or maybe for unconscious reasons) a talented potential hire is declined because they did not get a masters in the field that organization operates, or because they don't dress like everyone else in the office does, or because they didn't attend at least four sit-ins for the cause over the past year. How sad for the beneficiaries of the mission statement of that nonprofit, that the organization can't imagine beyond its own culture hiring talent that is available to it, but who may not eat, sleep, and walk the cause, issue, or professional field. You are a talented bookkeeper, who if hired, will help take the organization to the next level successfully. If, though, the nonprofit who is interviewing you can not see your talent and potential (beyond their organizational culture) then they aren't only missing a tremendous opportunity (and giving you a good reason to look for a better potential employer); they are not focusing on their mission statement and the beneficiary(ies) of it. They are too wrapped up in what an employee "should" look like, or dress like, or have as a degree, or do on their own personal time, politically, etc.

This is one phenomenon in the nonprofit sector that I don't believe that I've ever heard addressed formally, such as in an article or as a topic during a conference, and yet, it always occurs to me when I see it that it is probably a detriment to the nonprofits where it happens. I want to know what you think.

I am writing about this now (for the first time) because in this economy who we hire to either consult with us or come onto our organizations as staff is very very important. They must be talented in their respective role. For that matter...even who we purposefully recruit for our organization (such as board members) is equally, if not more so, crucial. Talent, experience, successes, and expertise...the person's potential is the key. The people who your organization has the benefit of attracting and potentially hiring or recruiting are the only opportunity it has to not just succeed and operate well - these people would be the organization's cogs, heart, and its future. They must be reviewed for their professional work potential, what they could do to improve the organization's operations or efficiency, what they could do to increase services or research provided, and their ability to be a strength for the organization's only reason for existing and operating: the mission.

I don't want to sound, here, like mission buy-in isn't important. It is. That's not my point, here. My point is there is mission buy-in and then there is only hiring or recruiting people who look, do, or whatever as we have looked, done, or whatever. The world is bigger and the bigger that your point of view is - the broader the potential for your nonprofit's hiring and recruiting and that is the pool that any nonprofit wants to select from.

No comments: