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Industry Insiders: Matt Erhard on Recruitment in the Non-profit Sector

Summit Search Group

Matt Erhard

Managing Partner

Matt Erhard

Managing Partner

Over the years, recruiting in the non-profit sector has seen shifts and changes, but never at the pace we are experiencing today. 

“We are living in an unprecedented time of challenges, uncertainty, and economic upheaval,” says Matt Erhard, the in-house non-profit expert here at Summit Search Group. “As we navigate through this new climate, running a non-profit and recruiting top talent will require innovation, creativity, and increased efficiency. These are good places to work, where successful leaders can go to make an impact. They rely heavily on capable, passionate people who are ready to sell a mission and represent a community.”

The Summit Team is here to help these essential organizations leverage their strengths to bring in the best people. 

Industry Challenges in the Non-Profit Sector

The biggest hiring challenge for the sector comes down to budget: non-profits tend to work with a smaller recruiting budget than other organizations, which can impact every part of the hiring process. Limited resources mean that exceptional candidates, both passive and active, may never come across positions that could prove to be an excellent fit. 

“Often, the difference between a good organization and a great one is determined by who sits in the senior leadership office. High-performing non-profit leaders can add incredible value to an organization, both in bottom line and integration to the community. Yet, failure rates for non-profit leaders are getting higher,” adds Matt. “Most non-profit organizations do not follow proven best practices at each step of the recruitment process. If they did, costly turnover would be much less likely.”

Canada’s Thriving Non-Profit Sector

The charitable and non-profit sector accounts for a full 8.5% of the Canadian GDP, with a substantial impact on health, education, and social services. Government, community, and business non-profits drive the most economic activity.

“Canada’s non-profit sector is a major economic force, with more than two million workers making a living with non-profit organizations. Yet these organizations are facing significant financial and competitive challenges in hiring talented individuals,” Matt notes.

Hiring Tools for the Non-Profit Sector

Focused assessment leads Matt’s list of top tools for non-profit hiring success. 

“Gone are the days of relying on resumes and unstructured interviews – these alone tend to be unreliable, resulting in poor executive performance and high turnover. Assessment tools designed to select the right individual provide a better evaluation on leadership potential,” he says.

For instance, Matt recommends evaluating work samples as a key representation of candidates’ skills. By leveraging work samples in place of resumes, candidates can actively demonstrate leadership aptitude. Structured interviews, guided by a thorough set of questions, are another of Matt’s recommended hiring techniques — create a measurable process, with a focus on predicting real-world performance in the future.

“It’s especially important for non-profit organizations to be strategic, to recruit and retain the best people,” Matt notes. “Yet the responsibility to find the right talent is often pushed to individuals within an organization who don’t necessarily have the experience they might need in recruitment. Effective selection of great candidates in the non-profit sector is often the result of integrating a system of many processes and best practices.”

Tips for Finding Top Non-Profit Talent

Today, a dynamic, fast-paced environment demands a new kind of leader within the non-profit sector.

“Human connections are key for not only building high performing teams, but also in multi-level collaborative relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Employees of a non-profit are more likely to follow the leadership in a changing work environment if the connection between the leader and follower is close,” adds Matt. “The ability for a nonprofit leader to balance multiple roles is crucial – they need to balance leadership, strategy and operations cohesively.”

Matt advises building your brand, offering perks and proactively searching for talent to attract top talent. Finally, he encourages every non-profit to highlight their greatest asset to potential talent: the work itself.

“Non-profits need to emphasize their mission and vision to the community they serve to attract the right people. Studies prove that millennials, in particular, would take a pay cut to work at an organization whose mission they believe in. Your recruitment strategies should emphasize the value, rewards, and benefits of working for your organization, and your community.”

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Industry Insiders: Matt Erhard on Recruitment in the Non-profit Sector

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