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5 Tips for Developing Nonprofit Staffing Roles from Scratch

Nonprofit experts will tell you that while hiring core nonprofit staff is one thing, conceptualizing brand new leadership positions is quite another.

Similar to establishing a new nonprofit board, your organization won’t be able to stick to a run-of-the-mill hiring process when developing new nonprofit positions. Instead, your executive search team must exercise creative thinking techniques to not only envision your new role, but also the best candidate for it.  

Thankfully, we’ve taken the liberty of outlining the five best practices your nonprofit must follow to stay on course with executive search:

  1. Assess your need for new nonprofit staffing
  2. Assemble a nonprofit staffing search committee
  3. Write a terrific nonprofit staffing job description
  4. Prepare a nonprofit staffing interview procedure
  5. Organize a nonprofit staffing training strategy

By taking action with these nonprofit staffing strategies, your organization will be on its way to enlisting game-changing development leaders in no time.  

Nonprofit Staffing

1. Assess Your Need for New Nonprofit Staffing

Before blazing the executive search trail, let’s take a step back and examine why your nonprofit is in the market for a new position in the first place.

While outgrowing your startup nonprofit goals and operations is expected, it’s vital that your development team still hash out your reasons for bringing on a new role such as:

  • Where do you see your nonprofit in 5, 10 and 20 years?
  • What roadblocks restricting your growth are you anticipating?
  • Which tools, resources or programs will benefit your long-term success?
  • How can you build or reshape nonprofit staffing to accomplish new goals?

During this process, make sure to consult your entire nonprofit staff with any additional input for building a new role. Include your team in group brainstorming sessions and even solicit written suggestions or feedback.

After all, many of your fundraising and nonprofit staff will undoubtedly work closely with your new executive leader, so a having a group consensus on what you’re looking for is strongly recommended.

The bottom line: Consider your nonprofit’s exact needs for a new team leader by gathering a variety of staff feedback and answering key development questions.  

Nonprofit Staffing

2. Assemble A Nonprofit Staffing Search Committee

Once your nonprofit staffing priorities are in order, your next big move will be to assemble a stellar executive search committee.

A search committee is an alliance of nonprofit professionals who each offer a unique set of strengths to identify and hire new nonprofit employees in this case, executive positions like development director or major gift officer.

This essential party should comprise individuals with a range of nonprofit disciplines and experience to provide the most diverse feedback in shaping and hiring your new team leader.

While forming your team, your nonprofit should remain conscientious of committee members with a bias for potential candidates, poor time management skills, or who slow down group decision-making.

Instead, be on the lookout for potential search committee members who meet the following expectations:

  • They are a key stakeholder in the nonprofit (think: board members, grant makers, and senior staff)
  • They have a track record of recognizing and training top-performing nonprofit employees
  • They have sufficient time to attend meetings and discuss group processes
  • They are passionate about your nonprofit’s current and future goals

In addition to accomplished nonprofit employees, your organization can also reach out to prominent community figures, major donors and local business owners to join your executive search committee.

The bottom line: Invest in a nonprofit staffing search committee with not only the proper credentials but also the time and enthusiasm for being involved.

Nonprofit Staffing

3. Write A Terrific Nonprofit Staffing Job Description

With an exceptional nonprofit staffing search committee on deck, now it’s time to draft a detailed job description that both informs and attracts desirable applicants.

A master nonprofit job description will hold equal parts professionalism and personality to fully detail the leadership role and your company culture.

To begin with, your nonprofit team must effectively communicate the position’s chief responsibilities and daily duties, which will likely include:

  • Interacting with staff and constituents via email, phone or social media
  • Answering donor and staff inquiries in a timely fashion
  • Researching and stewarding donors with prospect research tools
  • Creating donor solicitation or marketing materials for the fundraising team
  • Using integrated nonprofit technology for fundraising, marketing, and donor management

Incorporating routine tasks as well as big picture objectives into your job description will give candidates a sharper idea of their day-to-day experiences at your nonprofit.

Of course, you also need to factor in education and experience requirements. Given the interpersonal and hands-on nature of nonprofit work, a general rule of thumb is to place higher importance on valued experience while also considering fundraising credentials.

If your nonprofit is anxious or unfamiliar with crafting an executive job post, don’t worry! You can always turn to professional job description and letter templates to make wording that much easier.

Finally, be sure to include a downloadable resource with your job description to showcase on online nonprofit job boards.

These branded documents are great for applicants to print, store and reference key information on your nonprofit job opening. They also give you the opportunity to expand on your organization’s mission, background and application procedure.

The bottom line: Initiate a successful first point of contact between your nonprofit and prospective job candidates with a rock star job description and handy downloadable resource.

Nonprofit Staffing

4. Prepare A Nonprofit Staffing Interview Procedure

What some professionals call the climax of the executive search process are your nonprofit staffing interviews. Arguably the most critical part of the executive search, the foundation of your interviews will depend on the capability of your search committee and constructiveness of your questions.

As we touched on earlier, your nonprofit staffing search committee will be championing your executive search initiatives by:

  • Reviewing candidates’ applications and performing background/reference checks
  • Prepping for each round of interviews and staying on track with hiring timelines
  • Advancing finalist applicants in the hiring process faster

A top-notch executive search committee will have an in-depth understanding of these hiring stages and how they can coordinate them in the most efficient fashion.

In addition to managing the flow of interviews, your search committee is also responsible for devising interview questions that analyze a candidate’s nonprofit history and passion for philanthropic work.

These questions should not only evaluate key qualifications but also get to the heart of what really drives an applicant to influence your nonprofit’s mission and growth.

A few more perceptive questions may include:

  • How diverse is your nonprofit experience?
  • How would you properly steward donors?
  • What is your experience with planning and executing major fundraisers?
  • What are your top strategies for promoting a fundraiser?
  • What are some of your favorite nonprofit software and technologies?

Furthermore, your nonprofit should also examine a job applicant’s experience with rallying together fundraising volunteers and retaining them for future endeavors.

Above all, your sample interview questions should address the scope of a candidate’s experience while engaging their personality to determine if they best suit your nonprofit’s needs.

The bottom line: A well-versed executive search committee and sharp interview questions can help your nonprofit set an effective and reusable interview strategy into motion.

Nonprofit Staffing

5. Organize A Nonprofit Staffing Training Strategy

With the hustle of the interview process behind you and the ideal candidate selected, your nonprofit can move forward to the final stage of nonprofit staffing: onboarding.

Onboarding can be particularly tricky when developing a brand new position, which is why it’s even more essential for your new hire to have an abundance of training resources and assistance at their disposal.

For starters, your nonprofit should have a capable onboarding committee in place to educate your new hire on their budding role as well as standard organization policies and procedures. It’s also not uncommon for members of your nonprofit’s onboarding committee to overlap with your search committee.

As a team, your onboarding committee can successfully delegate training tasks and field your new hire’s questions by:

  • Explaining independent work vs. collaborative work processes
  • Reviewing communication policies with staff and constituents
  • Walking through schedule and deadline procedures
  • Arranging one-on-one check-ins with supervisors
  • Organizing print and digital resources to utilize

Your new hire should also be fixed up with a designated workstation and easy-to-access resources to aid them in their role transition.

For instance, your onboarding team can compile a handy list of practical tools and apps to simplify a variety of nonprofit tasks including but not limited to:

  • Task management Schedule appointments and reminders, send emails and create shareable online projects with the Microsoft/Outlook suite or Google’s G Suite.
  • Consistent engagement Design and send emails, newsletters and annual appeals using templates and analytic tracking on MailChimp or Constant Contact. You can also control and automate social media postings from platforms like Hootsuite.
  • Publishing content Utilize a host of blog platforms or content management systems like WordPress or Drupal. You can also create eye-catching visual media with other free online tools.

Instruct your new hires on how to make the most of these technological resources as well as your existing online fundraising software, nonprofit CRM, and more.

The bottom line: Inspire confidence in your new hire by developing their new position with a fluid training process and knowledgeable onboarding team.

There’s no doubt that establishing new nonprofit staffing roles is an exciting time for your nonprofit because it signifies your overall growth and upcoming success. Design and recruit the exemplary nonprofit team your organization deserves by keeping these tips at front of mind.

Nonprofit Staffing


This article was written by Aly Sterling, Founder and President of Aly Sterling Philanthropy.