Human resources management supports the development and engagement of the talent of your staff and volunteers in accomplishing your organization's purpose. Most organizations think of human resources only as the paperwork and processes around hiring and paying employees. Having a broader definition of human resource practices in the organization can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of the organization.
Human Resource Strategy
A human resource strategy will be the basis for ensuring that the organization has the following characteristics:
- The organization has the right people placed in the right roles
- The people provide the right mix of skills to achieve the organization’s goals
- Putting in place compensation and benefit options that support both employee and organizational success
- Employees and volunteers display attitudes and behaviors that are consistent with the organization’s values and the culture the organization wishes to communicate internally and externally
- Employees and volunteers feel that they are valued and have the opportunity to develop additional skills and knowledge.
Getting the Right People On Board
In order to get the right people, you need to pay careful attention to how jobs are designed and how jobs fit together in the organization. Job descriptions should speak not only to the tasks the person will do, but to the skills and characteristics that are important to the role. Here are some sample job descriptions and other hiring guidance:
- Legal and illegal questions when hiring
- Hiring your first employee? Everything you need to know about payroll.
Be careful about using people in contracted roles. There are important federal laws about who can be considered a contractor. Similarly, there are U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules about interns and about the payment of stipends to volunteers. It is a good idea to consult with an employment law attorney to assure that you are following these complicated rules. If you cannot afford an attorney, in Washington State, contact Communities Rise. Outside of Washington? Similar low cost legal services for nonprofits may be available in your community.
- Department of Labor rules regarding interns
- Stipends - It is possible to legally pay a volunteer a stipend only if it is a reimbursement of some types of expenses or a nominal payment. The Department of Labor will presume that a fee paid to a volunteer is nominal as long as the stipend is not more than twenty percent of what an organization would pay if they hired a full-time employee to perform the same service. See the Wage and Hour Opinion Letter: FLSA2006-28.
- Payroll Q&A / checklist and calculator from WA State Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance
Part of ensuring that you have the right people is being open to and actively encouraging of diversity on your staff. Here are some resources that can help ensure that you have an environment that embraces diversity and builds cultural competency.
Now, take a look at job boards where nonprofits frequently post job openings:
Consider Compensation Design
What you pay your staff members is impacted by a complex array of internal and external factors. What is equivalent pay in a similar nonprofit? Are for-profit jobs going to lure away the talent you need on your staff? How do concerns about equity and social justice impact your decisions?
It is important to create compensation policies and procedures that ensure that various employees are treated fairly in your organization. It can be helpful, too, to identify clear pathways for job progression where people can take on more responsibility and improve their pay.
And consider, what does the law require? Make sure you are aware of federal and local minimum wage laws and are following the federal overtime pay requirements. To determine who is eligible for overtime pay, use our tools.
Keeping salaries competitive is a challenge for nonprofits. In general, salary levels are the highest for government employees. Nonprofits employees working in higher education, health care, and research organizations are also at the top of the salary curve. Business salaries come next, with some variation between large and small businesses, and then pay at community-based nonprofits comes in at the bottom.
In order to keep pay equitable between employees, the organization needs to have a compensation approach that is based on market research into comparable salaries. There will always be special conditions that differentiate jobs and job applicants, but you should attempt to keep salaries at a similar level when compared to market averages across all positions. This avoids some unconscious bias risk that causes women to be paid lower for similar positions in the US (and our sector). Bias can be a factor in how older or younger workers, people of color, and immigrants are paid as well.
All-sector salary information is fairly available on the web. In many states, there are organizations that survey wages and benefits in that state. Some of these surveys are for all employees and others are specific to the nonprofit sector. Some of the nonprofit-specific surveys cover benefits as well as salary level.
- Nonprofit Organizations Salary and Benefits Reports (The Nonprofit Times)
- TSNE MissionWorks' Nonprofit Compensation Report for Southern New England, and Westchester County, New York.
- Washington State:
- state specific salary and benefits reports (produced by state associations of nonprofits in conjunction with Columbia Books & Information Services)
- National and job-specific nonprofit salary and benefits reports are also available (Columbia Books & Information Services)
Employee Benefits and Employer Requirements under Health Care Reform
Providing your employees with benefits is important to attracting and retaining good employees, but the array of choices can be dizzying. It is helpful to work with a benefits broker who can explain your options. You pay nothing for their services and they can help choose benefits that balance costs and employee needs. Find recommended brokers in the Northwest on our Consultants & Other Nonprofit Specialists page.
While there are some administrative processes changing about the Affordable Care Act, the law is still in place. A good source of information about the impact of the national Affordable Care Act (ACA) on nonprofits is
By giving employees information about the organization, its personnel policies, and how personnel matters are handled, you can help ensure employees have clear expectations. An employee handbook is an essential tool for setting out the philosophy and expectations of the organization.
The National Council of Nonprofits provides a sample employee handbook template for guidance only. The provided information is subject to change due to changes in federal, state, or local laws and regulations, so you should seek expert or legal assistance to make certain your interpretation and decisions are appropriate for your organization.
This SHRM guide from the Society for Human Resource Management provides a roadmap for developing and implementing a performance management approach that helps employees succeed.
Lastly, you'll find many helpful resources on Human Resources & Supervision from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (recruitment, hiring, termination, risk management, etc.)