Career Mapping for Nonprofits: The Nonprofits Leader's Guide to Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Top Talent

Career Mapping for Nonprofits: The Nonprofits Leader's Guide to Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Top Talent

by Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen


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Career Mapping for Nonprofits shows how a simple tool like career mapping can help make a team stronger, happier and committed, thus allowing executives to return to the work that inspires them—the work only they can do!

An executive may silently wish for the time when they can re-focus on advancing their nonprofit’s mission. They are eager to get back to leading a dedicated team whose members are all going in the same direction at the same time.
They are ready to take back their time and create lasting partnerships and bonds with each team member. Career Mapping for Nonprofits can help leaders do just that. Talent management and staffing expert, Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen shows leaders how a simple tool like career mapping can help them take their time back and guides them to create a highly engaged team. Leaders learn to spend less time dealing with personnel issues, how to lower turnover dramatically, and how to co-create each team member’s career map. The result is a work environment that is efficient, satisfying, and engaging where nonprofit leaders have made space to guide and inspire employees to designing a compelling career map for the success of all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642792430
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is a talent management and staffing expert with 20 years’ experience connecting employers with talent and professionals with careers in the nonprofit sector. A native of The Dominican Republic, she began her career in executive search and recruiting in New York City. In 2006, she founded Careers In Nonprofits (CNP), now among the leading nonprofit staffing firms in the US. Nurys has a Master’s degree in labor relations and human resources management from Baruch College - City University of New York, and a bachelor’s degree in public administration. She lives with her husband and two young children in Northern Virginia.

Read an Excerpt



You are executive director of a nonprofit with a $2 million budget. Unfortunately, the job you were hired to do is no longer how you are spending most of your time. You are now devoting a great deal of it to helping your managers put teams together and choose the right team members. That's right, you're walking the recruiting beat! And every few weeks, it seems, there is a position that needs filling due to a termination or a resignation you didn't see coming. More than one employee is being affected by this turnover and more than one person's time is being sucked up trying to recruit and identify a qualified person to fill the position. But the person you're most worried about right now is you – your own sanity and capacity. You're overwhelmed with projects that require your attention and tasks that only you can do. The work isn't getting done and you're behind schedule, and a key position that's open is the culprit. Everything is slowing down, including the speed at which you and your managers are able to deliver services and advance the mission of your nonprofit. You are working late and see no remedy anytime soon. You fill one position and another one opens. You are able to hire temporary help or spread the workload among other staff members, but they're starting to grow resentful. You know in your heart that the tourniquet approach you've been using to stop the bleeding is neither practical nor sustainable. It seems that you spend your days putting out fires and agonizing over the vacancy or vacancies, helping manage the workload and minimally keeping up with the work.

Eventually, you grow concerned that you will be perceived by members of your board of directors as an ineffective leader. Meanwhile, everyone is looking to you for ideas about who to recruit and where from, and how to keep current staff members happy and engaged. At this point, no one can be sure of who is going to stay or for how long. Your managers are afraid of making the wrong hire, but equally concerned about having incomplete projects and losing valued team members to burnout. A recruitment strategy driven by scarcity and fear is no strategy at all. Finally, you think to yourself: "I can't afford to spend another day offering support and guidance on staffing matters to team leaders and managers. This isn't what I was hired to do. I need a solution today!"

One of the biggest complaints I've received from clients throughout my more than 20 years recruiting for the nonprofit sector is the amount of time it takes to recruit qualified candidates. Whether or not you have a human resources department to back you up, as a nonprofit leader you are still expected to offer solutions. Heck, you expect this of yourself! You've been in this predicament more than once, or find yourself caught in a recurrent cycle. If you're like me you start to wonder, "When will I be able to get back to focusing on my core mission? Will the time ever come when I am no longer being counted upon to provide staffing solutions?"

Staffing challenges, whether they are caused by high turnover due to mishires or poorly articulated job descriptions, affect the day-to-day operations of your organization and impede the successful advancement of its mission. They can also stifle individual contributions from staff members and negatively impact morale. You also worry that the organization may be earning a poor reputation due to its high turnover rate. You believe the work that you do is making a difference, and you have staff members with a long history with the organization who are contributing at a high level to thank for that. Where do you find more people like them? You don't expect a lifelong commitment. But you do expect individuals who are excited about the opportunity and who want to make a difference. No surprises, please! Believe me, I understand, it's no fun coming to the decision that a new hire is not working out after only five months, or receiving a resignation on a Monday morning. Getting blindsided by changes in employee behavior, commitment or enthusiasm is something we all try to avoid.

Of course, as a nonprofit leader you would rather spend those precious hours advancing the mission of the organization. Recruiting is time consuming, I'll give you that, but it is truly a necessary evil. Nobody is spared. Not even a staffing expert like me.

I can recall a time when I was hiring too fast to fill vacancies at my firm or making the wrong hiring decisions, because I didn't want to spend too much time on recruiting and away from my core responsibilities. I just wanted the problem to go away. I allowed the pressure I felt to get back to my responsibilities dictate the amount of time I spent on recruiting, a process that was not very well thought out to begin with due to the time crunch. As a result, I found myself hanging on to employees who were not a good fit just so I could avoid getting back out there on the recruiting trail. Then it happened. I was blindsided by the resignation of a staff member for whom I'd had high hopes. I started to question myself. "Why can't I get this right when I am the expert?"

Ironically, upon comparison, I realized that my clients and I had the same list of grievances:

• Not enough time to recruit

• Not enough qualified candidates

• Surprises, such as unforeseen resignations

• Having to recruit for the same position multiple times

• Having to compromise on some aspects of the role to fill the position

• Managing unrealistic expectations from new hires

• Not having an internal pool to recruit from

• Spending precious hours away from the core mission

• Being forced to get creative with the current workforce to get all of the work done

• Tasked with offering solutions to managers struggling with the same challenges

• Resenting having to wear a "recruiter's" hat too often

• Time and money spent on training and retraining new hires

Again, you just want to get back to focusing on leading your organization and working with your team to advance its mission, as you should. Understanding this frustration has built up a well of compassion in me that I've turned into strategies to help organizations effectively alleviate these problems. It's difficult to think and see clearly when you're in the moment. Sometimes a sense of confusion takes over and you start to question whether you truly need to fill the position. And even if you do fill it, can you say confidently it will be with a dedicated employee who's willing to go the distance? Loyalty is important to the legacy and workforce continuity that you're trying to sustain. Both are critical components of organizational structure, its growth potential, and sustainability. But it's hard to nurture these essential elements in organic fashion if you're constantly being interrupted by employment separations. What are your board members thinking right now? Can they remain confident in your ability to grow the nonprofit and successfully deliver its programs and services while you fight these staffing fires? Or will they perceive you as not firing on all cylinders?

Some positions are simply hard to fill. These are the ones that you, your managers, and HR wind up recruiting for every 9 to 18 months on average. And you have not been able to figure out why some roles have more turnover than others. The following is a checklist of reasons you should consider:

• Is it the team?

• The work in the role?

• The salary allocated to this position?

• The time of year this position has been recruited for or filled?

• Or is it the way the job has been designed?

You've tried compromising, downgrading your list of "must haves" to "nice to haves." You've formed hiring committees and even initiated a complete overhaul of the recruiting process. But none of these strategies have led to the desired results. You are still spinning your wheels and being pulled into the hiring drama.

What is missing in your process? What can be done differently? This should be easy. After all, you have a great job to offer, an opportunity for the right hire to come in and join an amazing team, and a huge difference to make in the world through the work of your nonprofit. Shouldn't job seekers be clamoring at your door to join your team? Shouldn't your current employees have a desire to grow and build their careers within your amazing nonprofit?

So many questions and unknowns. I had the same questions and the same problems at my company in the beginning. There are key challenges that all employers face:

• Attracting the right people

• Maximizing engagement with the existing workforce

• Offering real and structured career growth

• Having a unified team

• Having a clear vision of what you expect out of each role

• Having a team that is fulfilled, happy, and contributing at high levels

Some nonprofit leaders and managers are too willing to accept these challenges as part and parcel to running a nonprofit. Wouldn't it be wonderful if workforce challenges took up less than 10% of your focus and attention? If your department heads had all the tools they needed to have a recruiting process that was efficient and sustainable?

If things were different, you would be able to get back to your list of projects where you are moving forward the organization's mission. You would be up to date with deadlines and your time would be spent growing a strong team. Days spent wasting precious hours on figuring how to replace staff would be a thing of the past.

Career Mapping

What you need is a sound recruitment plan that standardizes job roles and clearly spells out the expectations and deliverables associated with each role. This is achievable through career mapping. A career map is a tool that empowers nonprofit professionals to best serve and utilize their skills, experience, and unique strengths, to make their mark in the world. This tool simplifies their professional path with Clarity, Purpose, Direction, and Intention.

Getting you back to doing the things that you were hired to do and the things that you would rather spend most of your time and effort on should be very exciting, appealing, and completely doable. Your organization needs you out on the front line, creating programs and overseeing them to their ultimate goal. Sure, running a nonprofit is more than interviewing potential employees and making a good hire. But a good hire can be critical to getting your goals and the goals of the organizations met. Each is dependent upon the other.

The workplace should be stimulating, encouraging, and a place where minds gather for the greater good. It should not feel as if it's a struggle. It should not be painful. Attracting, recruiting, and hiring personnel for your nonprofit should be something you look forward to, not something you dread. Remember, people are driving your mission. The recruiting process should be executed through open lines of communications among all parties involved. It should come from a place of strength, not fear, and it should be a well-run, adventurous, easy practice. Take heart, nonprofit leader! You are not alone. Many other executives are in the same situation and have the same challenges. Finding a long-term solution keeps you up at night because you care. Let's continue and find out how you can navigate your team through staffing challenges, while continuing to lead and assuring that your programs and services are treated as top priorities.



I have spent the last 20 years working in the nonprofit sector connecting the best people with the best causes. I began my career at a small boutique firm in New York City. Shortly after starting in a full-cycle recruiting role, it became clear to me that this is the work I'd be doing for the rest of my life. It has been my dream job, and I wouldn't do anything else. In the early days, everything about my work was exciting. I loved being part of an entrepreneurial work environment, but more importantly, knowing that my efforts benefitted the nonprofit sector was extremely gratifying. Through recruiting and staffing, I was able to impact multiple nonprofits at once, which gave me a real sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I truly enjoyed meeting and getting to know potential candidates and hearing their work stories and aspirations. And I loved helping nonprofits identify the right candidate for their open positions.

As the conduit between the candidate and the hiring manager, I always sought to play an active role in deciding who got the job. I would give feedback to both parties about next steps and help them assess all of the information in front of them so they could be confident in their decision. I learned that when there are so many unknowns, such as the small and big time consuming tasks in the position, the direction and growth trajectory of the role, and issues to be dealt with "later," proved the hiring process to be much trickier. But when both employee and employer are transparent and clear about their intentions, the process can be seamless and lead to a long-lasting partnership.

When I founded Careers In Nonprofits in 2006, my objective was to offer an easy, efficient solution to the nonprofit sector's staffing needs. I wasn't buying that a more efficient way to attract, hire, and retain professionals in the nonprofit sector couldn't be achieved. I care so much about this sector, including its growth and the important work that nonprofits do. I felt strongly that if I was going to get into the staffing game, I'd have to bring my "A Game" and offer services and support that went beyond reviewing resumes, scheduling interviews, and extending job offers. I designed a comprehensive service package, taking on the tasks that a lot of nonprofit managers tell me they hate. The firm took on the tasks of assisting in creating or revising the job posting when needed, and ensuring that it clearly defined the role, expectations, and deliverables tied to the position. I took charge of screening candidates and developing a step-by-step interviewing and hiring process. And to close the loop, I would offer my recommendations to the hiring manager about who I believed was the perfect candidate for the job.

I acknowledge that as recruiters, the work that we do can appear very transactional, but when recruiting is handled in a transactional manner it lacks the benefits that come with doing the work as part of a team. Studies have shown that placements made utilizing a thorough process, whereby important information is gathered and shared through open lines of communications between the hiring managers and the recruiters, lead to high success rates and desirable outcomes. Understanding the role, the team dynamic, and the growth plan before you invest time and effort in recruiting, which is already time-consuming, makes the process fairly painless for hiring manager, job seeker, and recruiter, alike. This approach to serving the nonprofit sector proved to be a key differentiator, because we delved deeper to identify the qualities of the ideal candidate while adding value in the form of customer care at the same time.

The Double Whammy

As I worked with a variety of nonprofits and became intimate with their staffing woes and challenges, I gained an appreciation for the frustration that comes with an unfilled position. I would get a phone call at 5:10 p.m. on a Friday from a not-so-happy nonprofit leader who had just received a letter of resignation from a key employee. In some cases, that person had been hired less than six months ago, adding insult to injury. At other times, it would be an urgent email from a nonprofit executive director in need of a temporary employee the very next day. They were at Defcon Orange, one away from a full red alert, because the position had remained vacant for so long that work was piling up and the team was burnt out. I remember one client who came to us who was experiencing both at the same time, what I call the Double Whammy. On the one hand, the organization was looking for a long-term solution to its staffing crisis that would end the cycle of mis-hires; on the other, a short-term solution to deal with performance issues with the current workforce, about whom the client expressed some apprehension. The executive director had recently terminated three employees who were underperforming and had received two resignation letters in a period of four months. In this situation the client was in need of a short-term staffing solution, as well, to keep from sliding further into the abyss. This is a common case scenario in the nonprofit sector and it gives us the opportunity to partner with nonprofits and assist in significant ways. For example, by taking time to see how the position fits into the organization as a whole, and not just in the moment but three to five years down the line. Also by taking a very close look at the history of the position and what factors have contributed to other professionals being successful in it or not. Some staffing crises were less challenging than others. Some of our clients were very transparent and would share information that was pivotal to our candidate screening process and final recommendation. Having access to the full picture – including background on the job role, the reason for separation, and setting long- and short-term goals for the new hire – made a difference in our approach and, ultimately, the outcomes.


Excerpted from "Career Mapping For Nonprofits"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Your Legacy?,
Chapter 1: Recruiting – The Necessary Evil,
Chapter 2: My Story,
Chapter 3: Deliberate Creation of Roles,
Chapter 4: Clarity,
Chapter 5: Purpose,
Chapter 6: Direction,
Chapter 7: Intention,
Chapter 8: What Can Go Wrong?,
About the Author,
Thank You!,

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