How Does a Nonprofit Know When it’s Time to Hire New Staff?

by Steve Leibman

Here’s a situation I see and hear about all the time. Tell me, does it sound familiar to you?

You work at a nonprofit organization because you want to change the world, have meaning in your work, and feel good about yourself when you wake up every morning. When you sit back and reflect for a moment and look at the last year, you realize, “WOW, we really did accomplish a lot. Our nonprofit hosted some great events, helped out people in need, expanded our support network, and is making meaningful progress. However, on a personal note, why do I feel so burnt out with no end in sight?”

Your next thought is, “Maybe it’s time to hire someone new to pick up some of the work I’m doing, so I can go out and do the things I was really trained to do. That would be the best use of my time!”

Maybe yes and maybe no. I suggest answering the following questions to help you arrive at an answer that will be most helpful to you and your organization:

  1. Answer the question above about the “best use of your time.” Consider the fact that doing many tasks keeps you in touch with the day-to-day operations of your organization. It puts you in a position to suggest improvements, know what the volunteers and donors are thinking, and it can be a way to build teamwork and collaboration – as in, “We’re all in this together.”
  2. Make a list of all the tasks and projects you are working on. Maybe there’s a better, smarter, quicker way to get them done.
  3. Think about the work cycle of your nonprofit. Is this a busy time of year, and in 30 days will it slow down or become more manageable?
  4. Can you divide up the work, tasks and projects a different way and still get it all done in a quality manner?
  5. What is the funding for a new position? If it’s not there, can we fundraise for the position?
  6. Take a deep breath, meet with your staff and see if you can come up with a solution internally.

If after answering all the questions above, you still believe that you need to hire a new person, then go forward with clarity, confidence and enthusiasm about finding a wonderful new person to join your team!

Steve Leibman is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. He will be offering a workshop at UpStart Bay Area November 16, 2011: Hiring Time: How (and When!) to Recruit the Right People for Your Organization.