Colorado Nonprofit Association is proud to partner with Pathfinder Solutions on research and events to support nonprofit staff talent development. Our multi-year plan includes research to better understand the talent development issues most important to Colorado nonprofits followed by community forums and training to share best practices. Look on our Upcoming Training and Events to see when this program will be in your area.
In 2011, the Path with a Heart partners conducted a survey of over 1,300 nonprofit staff in Colorado. We found that nonprofit careers and organizations can be strengthened by many specific talent development activities. The following report shares what nonprofit staff told us and identifies best practices in talent development for sustainable organizations. Read the Report Here.
- Nonprofit staff are attracted to the sector by their motivation to make a difference.
- Professional development and career support systems result in greater job satisfaction.
- Organizations that prioritize talent and leadership development are more sustainable.
Most respondents cited more than one reason for finding a job in the nonprofit sector. Fifty-three percent say their desire to make a difference was an important factor in choosing a nonprofit career. Surprisingly, fewer than half (45 percent) say that passion for a specific cause was a factor. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that volunteer work was part of what inspired them to join the nonprofit sector.
More than 75 percent of survey respondents learned about their current position through word of mouth, a personal friend, or through an online job board. Just 3 percent were encouraged by a counselor to explore the field, and only 2 percent found their jobs via university career services. Deliberate recruitment by a search firm or head hunter into the sector was rare, at just 2 percent.
Data also reveals a strong relationship between the ability to hire and retain talented staff and nonprofits’ sustainability. Does this mean that organizations become more sustainable because they effectively attract and develop talented, highly-qualified staff, or does it mean that sustainable organizations are able to direct more resources toward employee recruitment and retention – or both? In any event, we can detect some key success indicators for talent development by looking at how sustainable nonprofits address these practices.
In order to remain competitive with other sectors as we experience economic and demographic shifts, the nonprofit sector must encourage appropriate career advancement. Eighty-three percent of Colorado nonprofit professionals said that advancement opportunities are important or very important to them. Yet, 64 percent of respondents feel that opportunities for advancement are not obvious in the nonprofit sector. Of those who feel there are obvious opportunities for advancement, 49 percent are from sustainable organizations while only 3 percent are from unsustainable organizations.
Our research identified a number of activities that are possible for most nonprofit organizations to undertake, and we hope to provide additional resources to help individual communities and the sector as a whole tackle these issues. Here are proactive steps that you can take to create or strengthen your talent development process:
Sharing your reaction to this report, mutual talent development challenges, and opportunities within your organization and community will help you prioritize needs.
Understanding the career continuum from education to retirement for any field is not easy. However, organizations should examine their current practices in the context of the larger community. Are you reaching the best applicants for your job openings? How might service learning programs at local schools help you develop the future talent pool?
Enhance understanding of the roles executive directors and boards play in staff lives and careers. What does this imply in terms of budget, training, recognition, retention, leadership development, and transition management?
Nonprofit staff and programs should reflect the community they serve, but this requires time and effort. Explore your strengths and weaknesses in attracting diverse staff, and before you hire, think about how to make your organizational culture truly inclusive.
Creating talent development goals and providing resources to meet those goals demonstrates that an organization invests in and values its staff. Measure the progress in meeting objectives and build long-term plans that use the full potential of each individual. This process can help connect the dots between job satisfaction, organizational effectiveness, and impact.
Avoid focusing solely on top-level management. Investing in lower-level staff can strengthen your organization from the bottom up, provide greater job satisfaction for those staff and build the next generation of nonprofit leaders.
We highlighted the link between training, coaching, and mentoring and strong organizations in this report, and organizations should work to continue basic talent development practices. While many of the outcomes of the suggestions here are long-term, nonprofits should work with their current staff immediately to see what support they need. Creating a talent development budget and plotting activities for the rest of the year will help you craft the future.
Colorado Nonprofit Association
Renny Fagan, President & CEO