6 hiring challenges in global nonprofit organizations

April 12, 2022

hiring challenges in global nonprofit organizations and NGOs

Like their counterparts in the business world, NGOs and international nonprofits face hiring considerations unique to operating in different countries, from recruiting in new regions to streamlining communication across various time zones and locales. What’s more, the last few years have contributed to massive shifts in the hiring landscape.

Key to advancing your mission is hiring talented, dedicated workers. But sometimes that requires overcoming hurdles, both internal and external. Let’s review some hiring challenges in nonprofits and NGOs.

1. Lack of a formal recruitment strategy

Recruiting skilled talent with a passion for furthering the cause is critical for a nonprofit or NGO to thrive.

And yet, more than 60% of all nonprofits don’t have a formal recruitment strategy. As a result, they tend to be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to hiring. They place a few ads, review some resumes, and hope for the best. But that ends up hamstringing their ability to find, hire and retain top talent.

How to fix this

Before diving into nonprofit hiring practices, organizations must set aside the time and energy needed to build out a recruitment strategy. The process and final product will look different for every NGO and nonprofit, consider taking the following steps:

  • Conduct an internal review – When it comes to hiring employees for a nonprofit organization, before you make any changes, you should first see what is or isn’t working by reviewing your recruitment metrics. Armed with this data, you can start to understand your process (or lack thereof), identify problem areas, and set clear goals.
  • Flesh out the roles and responsibilities – Knowing exactly what the role will entail can help narrow your search to a group of nonprofit leaders who will bring the skills and qualities that align with the job. All the talent in the world won’t matter if a candidate is in the wrong role. 
  • Use recruiting tools – Whether it’s an applicant tracking system or some other novel technology, there are dozens of tools you could use to streamline tasks, reach a wider pool of candidates, and improve the overall process.
  • Leverage various channels – Instead of limiting your recruiting efforts to your website or a few external nonprofit job posting sites, exhaust all potential avenues for finding top talent. For instance, a comprehensive digital marketing strategy can help boost your visibility and attract potential nonprofit employees. Or your referral network could spotlight an ideal applicant.

2. No clear employment brand

Your brand is the image you convey to the world about your organization. It’s your identity—the elements that differentiate you from the countless other NGOs around the globe. Having a clear brand identity plays a critical role in attracting top talent, and yet, approximately 70% of nonprofits fail to develop an employment brand.

How to fix this

The first place to start developing and understanding your employment brand is with your existing staff. They can help you identify the aspects of the organization and its culture that stand out to them. 

From there, ask yourself the following: What is your employee value proposition?

As Jeff Ballow writes in Philanthropy News Digest: “This can include everything from salary (which can be a challenge for some nonprofits), mission (typically not a challenge), employee benefits package, professional development opportunities, and/or work-life balance.”

Do you offer unique work in a niche field? Do employees get more hands-on experience than they would elsewhere? Is there greater access to the people in charge of the NGO?

Whatever it is that makes you stand out, understanding and then communicating your unique value props is vital if you wish to entice high-quality talent. 

3. Job turnover

Turnover is one of the most costly and problematic issues that nonprofits face. The annual employee turnover rate for nonprofits is 19%, almost double that of the private sector.

When turnover occurs, you don’t just lose capable talent that was contributing to your mission. There’s also a sudden vacancy that must be filled. Identifying, enticing and then training a new employee can be time-intensive and costly. And in the meantime, existing employees have to take on the extra responsibilities. That can then contribute to higher levels of frustration and burnout, which could cause even more turnover to occur. 

How to fix this:

Although some of the factors may be unavoidable, it’s important that you take the time to understand the roots of burnout and then take steps to mitigate as many of those phenomena as possible. This includes:

  • Poor salary and benefits
  • Lack of upward mobility
  • Employees being overworked
  • Mental health issues

Few nonprofits will be able to match for-profit organizations’ compensation packages. What they can offer, however, is their mission—the opportunity to make a difference—as well as a focus on culture and employee well-being, which is trending among nonprofits.

Nonprofits and NGOs must be purposeful in fostering an environment in which employees can envision a long-term future. That means creating more opportunities for employees to move up. According to NonProfit Pro

“One benefit of hiring internally is that employees will see more career possibilities within your organization. Upward mobility is a strong motivator in the workplace. It also means employees filling new positions will already have vast background knowledge on the organization and on job function.”

4. A digital-first shift

Increasingly, global nonprofits are transitioning to a digital-first model. Salesforce projects that over the next half-decade, most nonprofits will conduct most of their work online, whether that’s day-to-day operations or fundraising.

While this will have major impacts across every facet of the industry, it will be especially felt when it comes to global hiring for NGOs.

How to fix this:

Nonprofits must embrace the change by re-evaluating previous strategies and processes. The roles themselves may shift as technology assumes many of the tasks that once were handled by people. Similarly, NGOs and nonprofits may need to champion cultural initiatives that make up for the fact that much of the team is operating remotely.

Planning and then enacting a digital-first strategy will likely look different for every organization. But it starts with an acceptance that digitalism is the future of the nonprofit sector. 

5. International hiring

International hiring and employment compliance are tricky because of the complexity of labor laws around the world.

You must navigate things like contracts, employee classification (and avoiding misclassification), pay and benefits. Failure to do so could result in significant issues down the road, including fines, operational shutdowns and reputational harm.

How to fix this:

Partnering with a global employment solutions provider can help you navigate employment requirements and compliance risk by offering local HR resources and expertise. For example, a global employer of record (EOR) can hire foreign workers on your behalf, while you manage them, and ensure all contracts comply with local requirements regarding:

  • Tax laws
  • Payroll
  • Benefits

Related: Global employment guide for NGOs

6. A skills gap

As nonprofits and NGOs shift toward a hybrid model, the demand for certain types of employees has grown. The number of open positions is larger than the available talent pool, especially in technology-based roles. This can lead to a skills gap between your current workforce’s skills and the level of performance you need to achieve your objectives.

How to fix this:

The first task is to identify and enlist the services of passionate people who value the mission. Although you may not be able to offer comparable pay to the for-profit sector, there are other intangible benefits that could make up the difference.

In the beginning, this may require hiring applicants who are toward the end of their work-life and seek to transition to the nonprofit sector. From there, a key part of their role should be training others within the organization to learn these vital skills. 

Such a training program not only benefits the organization, but it also fosters internal talent, providing them with the skills they need for upward mobility.

How nonprofits and NGOs can overcoming hiring challenges

It might seem insurmountable to overcome all the international hiring challenges that nonprofits and NGOs face, but depending on your organization’s unique needs, even tackling the most pressing might be enough to make a difference. Our global solutions advisors work with NGOs and nonprofits every day to solve even their most complex hiring needs, and they can provide guidance to help you solve yours, too.

Learn more about how we help NGOs and nonprofits, and schedule a call today.

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