Nonprofits tend to sink or swim based not on mission and funding alone, but on the talents of employees. Keeping good employees and equipping them for the work is one of the critical challenges frequently cited by nonprofit leaders. Investing in the “people” aspects of nonprofit organizations can help increase their impact philanthropy.
There are many reasons for this, from fear of getting into personnel issues, to foundation guidelines that focus on funding programs rather than operations. Below, we share nine strategic and inexpensive ways we’ve invested in nonprofit staffing, and that we believe other funders interested in providing similar support can easily adapt for their own grantee communities:
- Provide unrestricted general operating support. Capacity begins with staffing; do not underestimate the importance of supporting basic staffing costs by providing unrestricted general operating support. The more stable the general operating base, the more supported an organization will be in terms of staff retention, compensation, and morale.
- Offer an outside advisor for HR projects. Outside advisors can provide an objective review of a grantee’s staff organizational chart, job descriptions, salary scale, compensation levels, and personnel policies.
- Share salary data from national and regional surveys. Being exposed to this data often helps an organization understand why they have high turnover and helps motivate adjustments to salary scales. We don’t stipulate what they need to do with the data —that’s not our role— but typically it feeds into the case for support then made to their boards at budget time, and the longer-term planning done to ensure dreams match capacity.
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- Look at how you can support the staff. If you fund in a program area, that means you tend to work with a particular set of organizations across an entire field.
- Invest in peer support for your grantees. Support for peer learning helps build networks and is a cost-effective way for grantees to gain new skills and knowledge while reinforcing how much talent and experience is available to tap within the nonprofit’s existing community.
- Send your EDs to boot camp. Sponsor new executive directors to attend local “boot camps” for new CEOs, which are often available through a local university, nonprofit support organization, or leadership program.
- Take note of and fill gaps around training offerings. Workshops on human resource issues—with an understanding of nonprofit realities and culture—tend to be few and far between. We have often created our own for grantees, and the HR workshops are always the best attended.
- Subscribe to pro bono legal service. These services might be available through local law firms or others in the legal services field.
- Set aside an annual allowance exclusively for professional development. For example, our core grantees get a $2,000 stipend to apply as they see fit to professional development: conference attendance, training fees, professional memberships, coaching, etc.
Read the full article about strategic ways funders can increase impact philanthropy by Marianne Philbin at GrantCraft.
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