Five ways to compete with the corporate sector to land top talent

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Today’s talent pool has more choices than ever. From top-paying corporate jobs to cutting-edge startup positions to newly attractive nonprofit opportunities, today’s best applicants are in the lucky position of having a wider variety of options than any jobseekers in the past.

For nonprofits, this means that competition for top talent is fierce. Applicants can be lured away by the high salaries that are typical of private sector companies or the wild perks commonly found at young tech startups. In order to compete with corporations and other nonprofits, forward-thinking nonprofits should focus on demonstrating that their organization offers more than a competitive salary and benefits package.

Luckily, today’s applicant pool cares about more than just money. According to the Harvard Business Review, the millennials and Gen-Xers applying for positions today care more about meaningful work than they care about earning a high salary, and the savvy nonprofit knows how to appeal to this desire to make a difference. In order to compete with the corporate sector to land top talent, nonprofit organizations need to leverage their culture, purpose and profile in new and innovative ways.

Here are our top five ways to stay competitive and land the best talent as a nonprofit:

Develop a comprehensive hiring strategy

Before you even begin looking for talent, create a talent strategy that aligns to your mission. Who are you? What are you trying to achieve? Who do you need to achieve it? Your hiring practices must align with your goals, not just your immediate needs, so ensure that your hiring process will attract the kinds of people who will buy into and further your vision. By framing your strategy around these questions, you can keep your hiring practices consistent and focused toward the impact your nonprofit intends to make on the world.

Once you’ve defined a clear strategy for talent acquisition, you can move on to addressing your hiring needs. Begin by defining core competencies and essential duties of each role before hiring starts. Then, ask yourself whether you understand your available budget and supply and demand conditions in your market. Do this, and you’ll ground your search in the realities of both your organization and the available talent pool.

Communicate your story

As a nonprofit, you already have a leg up on competition due to your mission-focused mindset, at least when it comes to younger jobseekers. But in order to attract top talent, you need to demonstrate your story consistently and effectively. Your purpose should ring through everything your organization does, from your social media profiles to your brochures.

When you communicate your story effectively, you show how you live your purpose. Today's applicants don't just want a job, they want to be part of something larger than themselves. When an applicant sees how you’re making your vision a reality, it’s easier for them to envision their role at your organization and understand how they fit into your overarching purpose. When you establish this in applicants’ minds, things like start dates, vacation days and even salaries become far less likely to be deal-breakers in the hiring process.

Design roles for their future, not just yours

Believe it or not, today's candidates care more about growth opportunities within an organization than they care about their current income level. In order to attract, motivate and retain top talent, it's essential to demonstrate that a job within your company comes with the potential to move up the ranks. Demonstrate an applicant's opportunity for an upward trajectory within your organization right away to sway their decision.

But there’s a catch. Today’s applicants - especially millennials, whose median tenure is just 3.2 years - don’t expect to stay in a job for an extended period. Whether it’s due to today’s dynamic job market or the millennial entrepreneurial spirit, most of today’s applicants don’t expect to be with you for the long haul. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that your applicants are going to stay for two years and then leave: it simply points to the fact that today’s applicants care more about doing something meaningful, even if that means sacrificing stability.

When hiring, demonstrate to applicants that you’re willing to work with their objectives. Ask what they’re most interested in doing, and help them design a nontraditional career path within your organization that allows them the greatest access to work on what they’re best at.

Recruit creatively

New advances in technology give nonprofits powerful tools for connecting with jobseekers in real time.

If you want to get ahead of the competition for talent, take advantage of social media to find potential applicants. LinkedIn and Facebook have always been great places to engage with job seekers, but today you’ve got the tools to go even further. For example, Marriott International gamified their recruitment process and created an online hotel-themed game, similar to Farmville, where players juggled the responsibilities of a hotel kitchen manager. Not only was this a fun way to engage applicants, but it acquainted players with the industry even before they applied for a position with the company.

Offer creative benefits

In a market where employers are offering not just healthcare and retirement packages but also in-office snacks, gym memberships or even complimentary massages, applicants are looking for a benefits package that stands out from the crowd.

While operating on a limited budget can seem like an impossible obstacle to hurdle, there are plenty of ways to offer creative benefits without spending an arm and leg. Benefits that pack a punch without costing too much are plentiful; Consider offering benefits like flexible schedules or employee discounts at local businesses. If you want to take this even further, think about how you can leverage applicants’ sense of social responsibility and offer a stipend to encourage them to volunteer or donate to causes they care about.

Offer a competitive and transparent compensation policy

Even if your organization operates on a shoestring budget, open the doors for salary negotiation and work with employees in determining fair compensation. While research shows that millennials are willing to take a 15% pay cut to obtain a job where they can make an impact, don’t interpret this as carte blanche to slack off on salary negotiations. Transparency and clear communication around compensation guidelines builds trust between an organization and its employees.

While keeping up with the corporate sector in recruiting top talent can seem daunting, all it takes is a bit of creativity and careful planning. By thinking outside of the box and leveraging your mission, you can compete with other players in the private and public sectors and attract the best and brightest talent on the market.

Lisa is the President and CEO of Nonprofit HR. Under her direction, Nonprofit HR has served some of the most prominent organizations in the United States, including Amnesty International, Independent Sector and NeighborWorks America. With more than two decades of human resource management experience working with nonprofits and for-profit organizations, Lisa and her firm have proven that better HR can play an integral role in nonprofit success.

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