Reflections on REI’s Two-Day Racial Equity Workshop

“One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

In November, the Next Stage team participated in the Racial Equity Institute’s two-day Phase 1 training designed to “develop the capacity of participants to better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms.” The workshop was hosted in Charlotte by Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, a collaborative leadership group working to reduce disproportionality and disparate outcomes for children and families of color.

The following are reflections from our team members:

Caylin Haldeman, Director, CULTIVATE

For two full workdays, I put my email vacation responder up and sat alongside my colleagues at Next Stage and Charlotteans from all corners of our community — representing local universities, hospitals, the City, philanthropic institutions and more — in an uncomfortable chair in a chilly room at Hope Haven’s North Tryon campus. We were gathered for the Racial Equity Workshop, hosted by local collaborative Race Matters for Juvenile Justice and facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute, located out of Greensboro, NC.

It feels cheap to say that this was a powerful experience. Growing up in a Quaker learning environment, social justice and equity were concepts that showed up consistently through my studies and in discussion both at home and in the classroom. I fell into the nonprofit sector through volunteer work that was part of a class I took my junior year of high school exploring race and poverty in Philadelphia, PA. But it didn’t take long to realize how much more I have to learn — and frankly, how much I have to unlearn as well.

The work of creating racially equitable organizations and systems starts with having a full understanding of our country’s cultural and historic roots and a common vocabulary with established definitions for key concepts — for example: race, prejudice, racism, white supremacy, systems, social and institutional power. But it can’t end there.

We need to recognize the social and institutional power present in the inherent dynamic of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and our role in that inequitable system. I look forward to continuing to dialogue with the Next Stage team about how we can incorporate an equity lens into the work with do with nonprofits every day — and how we can participate locally to dismantle racism’s hold on our community.

Taylor Gardner, Client Coordinator

Why should we end racism?

It’s not a question you hear often. Instead, you hear questions like, “is racism still going on in 2019” or “how can we stop racism?” I thought it was interesting that the folks over at REI started with a simple, yet important question, why?

In November, I had the pleasure of joining the Next Stage team for a two-day workshop hosted by the Racial Equity Institute. In the past, I have been a part of workshops like these, so I sort of knew what to expect. However, even though I thought I knew what racism was and how the majority of the systems in this country are set up, this workshop opened my eyes to so much more. They did an awesome job of using history to shape the conversation.

As a black woman, I am often asked to forget the past, because it didn’t happen to me or my parents. However, this workshop proved that in order to make changes in the future, we have to address the past first. It also proved that things are easier to understand when you are all speaking the same language. It is easy to take into account your personal experience when thinking about racism and using that to inform your actions or attitude towards it. But, if you start with history and are in a room with people who all have the same information as you do, it is easier to come up with solutions and remain hopeful that one day things will change.

We all know or at least have an idea about racism in this country. But, something I personally never thought about was how it came to be in the first place or how it impacts all other aspects of life. I’ve heard and seen racism in the workplace or education, but what about in the financial industry, social services, or within nonprofits? Unfortunately, the truth is it is present in all systems and isn’t just Black and White. It is an issue that started with greed and has generational effects.

While racism is a big problem to face, I appreciate organizations like REI who are spreading unbiased information to help solve the issue. I am eager to see how we at Next Stage will use this information to impact our community and work.

Janet Ervin, Consultant

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is the quote that kept coming to mind as I sat through the workshop. I’ve always loved history and would have considered myself well-versed in both US and NC history… until I realized how much I don’t know because I had never encountered it before. Viewing the development of our country and public policy through a racial lens was sobering, humbling and eye-opening.

I have worked recently with an organization that help entrepreneurs in under-resourced communities and we’ve talked a lot about the impact of generational wealth, segregation in neighborhoods and more. And while I’ve understood these concepts on an intellectual level, the history and economics lesson in the workshop gave me the context to really ‘get’ how and why we got here – and the importance of dismantling the systems that make opportunity less accessible for people of color.

So much of the history in this workshop isn’t taught in school and it helped drive home the ways that we perpetuate policy and systems that have real-life consequences for people. Understanding the systems would help us better name the inequities and acknowledge the ways we benefit – so we won’t be condemned to the mistakes of our past.

On a personal level, I plan to take action by tackling a long reading list (starting with A People’s History of the United States) so I can better understand the policies that got us here and to consider the ways I can create more equity in my own work and life.

Tanya Varanelli, Project Manager

It’s going to take some time to fully unpack everything I learned and unlearned at this workshop. Starting with the “facts” from historical events and understanding how Americans have internalized the narrative we have been told. To me, this workshop was about learning the truth, being open to a new narrative, and having the hope and desire for change.

Knowing that race is a major predictor of outcomes should change how we systematically serve our community and use our voice. This workshop was a catalyst for understanding the true impact that race has our systems and what I can do as an activist for change. I am grateful to be able to participate in this powerful workshop with my coworkers and others in our community dedicated to increasing opportunity for all.

Josh Jacobson, Managing Director

Have you ever had to describe something profound to someone and feel you don’t have a suitable vocabulary? That’s how I feel right now. I was substantially impacted by REI’s Phase 1 training, and not a day goes by since that I haven’t reflected on what we learned.

Much of the workshop is a history lesson, beginning with colonists reaching Virginia and founding the Jamestown Colony in 1607. The workshop facilitators nimbly took us through the highlights (but really lowlights) of policymaking that has reinforced current systemic racial inequities. It was a stunning narrative I had never heard and will be forever changed by hearing.

At our recent staff retreat following this workshop we affirmed our passionate desire to bring a racial equity lens to our firm’s work, both internally and externally. I am personally pursuing a pledge I made that day to be an antiracist. I oppose racism, and to do that effectively, we change systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes. I am at the beginning of this journey but I am filled with purpose.

To learn more about Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, the Racial Equity Institute, or how your team can participate in an upcoming workshop, check out their website for more information.

Continued Growth at Next Stage, Meet Janet Ervin

by Josh Jacobson

We are thrilled to announce that Janet Ervin has joined Next Stage as Consultant. Janet brings a depth of experience in strategic positioning, brand development and communications to her role as a Consultant at Next Stage.

Prior to joining our team, Janet spent more than 13 years working with Charlotte-based nonprofit organizations, including the 24 Foundation (formally 24 Hours of Booty). Her expertise includes strategic planning, brand development, fundraising, grant writing, marketing and communications, volunteer development and organizational culture. Her lens on brand development and marketing adds a critical new skillset to the Next Stage team.

Importantly, she also has experience in the corporate sector, including the development of social responsibility and impact strategy and programs. In the months to come, I will be partnering with Janet in the development of new services, platforms and tools to activate both sides of the divide − nonprofits that desire to partner more meaningfully with corporations and companies that understand the power of social good to driving their bottom lines. Like me, she is passionate about bringing new ideas to the nonprofit sector and making sure that every organization is positioned for success.

As we approach our sixth anniversary at the end of December, it is perhaps fitting that Next Stage is now a team of six professionals striving together to improve our community. We have great plans for the coming year and adding Janet to the team helps make all of that possible.

Welcome to the Next Stage family, Janet!

Next Stage’s Values and Guiding Principles

by Josh Jacobson

Of late we have been talking about the importance of values and guiding principles to informing the culture and brand of a nonprofit organization. We think it is really important and an under-examined element of the nonprofit business model.

But what about the private sector? Aren’t values and guiding principles just as important to corporations and companies? Indeed they are. Visit any corporate website and you are likely to find them front and center.

So what about Next Stage? Since we promote the forming of values and guiding principles with nonprofit organizations, shouldn’t we “walk the walk” ourselves?

Absolutely we should. The following seven statements are Next Stage’s values and guiding principles, informed by nearly six years and over 120 nonprofit engagements in the Carolinas and activated everyday by our team of social do-gooders:

Purpose – We are called to this work.
We are social entrepreneurs who work with and through nonprofit organizations to strengthen our community. Our focus is on strategy and strengthening for social good across every sector, believing that improving the quality of life in our service area takes on many forms. We are deeply committed to the Carolinas and especially Charlotte where we live and our headquarters is located.

Collaboration – Only together we can achieve an ambitious vision.
We believe in the collective ownership of the nonprofit model and that a diversified mix of nonprofits are needed to create the strongest outcomes. This belief guides our work, with each new mission brought to life through the eyes of the passionate individuals who drive it forward. Our nonprofit partners champion the people and causes they serve, and we in turn champion them.

Equity – We are committed to inside-out solutions.
Our biggest challenges require bridging to understand, bonding to galvanize will and resource linking that is done with deep appreciation for what everyone brings to the table. We believe “outside-in” solutions are unlikely to yield success because everyone must have an ownership stake for the nonprofit model to be successful. This perception informs how we work across the entire firm.

Commitment – We hold ourselves to a very high standard.
Everyone at Next Stage has worked inside or alongside nonprofits for most of our careers. We get it. The resources used to invest in engaging with us could be used for many different purposes, and we refuse to be a “barnacle on the side of social good.” We endeavor to pour ourselves into every project we undertake with expert facilitation and strong written deliverables. We see our work as a partnership with nonprofit organizations and we always shoot for long-term impact.

Candor – We say the stuff that needs to be said.
The nonprofit business model is a messy one with many different stakeholders all with a formal (and informal) say in the future of an organization. Cutting through requires Next Stage to be an honest broker of findings learned through primary and secondary research. Next Stage is proud of its standing as a firm that is direct and trusted.

Courage – We challenge the social good status quo.
The way we have always done things is not sufficient to meet the growing needs of our community. We believe nonprofits must take risks by developing new strategies and approaches to grow their impact, and they must be supported in that activity by the stakeholders in their organizations. Our focus is on purposeful invention informed by research and a process of testing and retesting, with an aim of driving mission forward.

Efficiency – We are mindful of how we deploy our resources.
With so many worthy nonprofit organizations, we are limited only by our collective capacity to answer the call. We maximize productivity through a rigorous commitment to resource management, ensuring our nonprofit partners get the best of our efforts every time.

What do you think? For those who have worked with us, do these values and guiding principles accurately describe us? Do they resonate with you? Let us know on social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Values Retreat: A Love Letter

by Josh Jacobson

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to engage in one of my favorite activities: facilitating a values retreat. Of all the ways in which Next Stage engages in facilitation, none is more spirit-lifting than bringing together the board, staff and key stakeholders of a nonprofit to talk about their “why” and the organization’s “how.”

I thought I’d take a minute to unpack why I think it’s so important, and why it gets me so charged up.

Values & Guiding Principles

Our retreat focuses on prioritizing a set of values and defining a set of guiding principles for a nonprofit organization.

Values are the foundational beliefs that anchor a nonprofit’s work. Beyond mission, vision and programs, values are the nonnegotiable characteristics that best describe who we are and why we exist. These words describe the things that matter most to our organization, and should be reflected in our work every day.

Guiding principles are “applied values” meant to govern action and define a brand of those actions for people who interact with the organization.  Values without the corresponding guiding principles they inform are less meaningful, like setting a goal but not making it measurable.  They become just positive-feeling words without the teeth to make them real.

If your organization already has a set of values, this exercise can seek to validate them. Sometimes values were chosen by a founder or by a group of people at another point in time, and it can be meaningful to test whether they remain core to the organization.

There are many values an organization can choose from (e.g. excellence, integrity, professionalism) but translating them into guiding principles is what makes them real for everyone involved with a nonprofit. It also requires more than just the board of directors. This retreat is ideal with 20+ participants to include members of governance, staff, core volunteers and other very engaged stakeholders.

Dotmocratizing Values

Our retreat begins with a fun, participatory exercise. Next Stage works with a nonprofit’s leadership to settle on a list of 30-40 values relevant to the organization. These values are printed on 8.5 x 11 paper in a large font, one per sheet, and hung side-by-side on a wall. Retreat participants are given five circle stickers to prioritize the values that they feel are most important to the organization. They are also given one special sticker to put on the value they feel is most important. After being given this direction, participants are let loose to get out of their seat and “vote by dot.” It is called dotmocracy, and we love it.

It is really interesting to see how people treat this exercise. Some particpants go right up to the wall and quickly assign their dots. Others hang back and watch it all unfold before deciding how to vote, sometimes breaking ties or teeing up a value that has gotten less attention. We often use different colored dots for different sets of stakeholders (e.g. board vs. staff) so we can see trends in how groups might think differently. It usually takes about ten minutes for a team of 20+ to engage in the exercise.

Once complete, we help the participants narrow the values to a set of roughly seven. There are typically 3-4 values that are clear winners in the room, with a second tier where there may be a farily even set of dots. It might be possible to combine some values, helping the process along.

Establishing Guiding Principles

The real magic is evolving the value concept into a guiding principle, which are typically short, pithy statements that encapsulate how a value is applied in practice. Guiding principles serve to help those engaging with the organization to understand its policies, procedures and decision-making framework.  Guiding principles inform the notion of organizational growth and provide a framework for on-boarding new constituents.

As an example, an organization with a value of “professionalism” is likely to have a guiding principle that speaks to “championing professionalism in all aspects of the organization’s programming, operations, communications and community engagement.” That guiding principle serves as a backbone for a set of guidelines in each area of focus (e.g. “financial reports are generated monthly to monitor progress), all in service to the guiding principle regarding professionalism. We often work with organizations to translate guiding principles into processes, policies and procedures that make them tangible.

Guiding Principles & Intentional Culture Development

At Next Stage, we believe in a simple equation: Values + Processes = Internal Culture & External Brand. Values are at the core of a nonprofit’s identity, and reinforcing processes need to be put in place that foster intentional outcomes.

And that extends beyond programming to the entirety of the organization. Nonprofits are typically better at ensuring values-aligned programming than they are in building an intentional organizational culture that reflects similar values. So while a nonprofit might champion personal development to a program participant, that nonprofit might not be providing its staff with the same opportunities for personal growth.

This retreat is typically galvanizing and the starting point for strategic planning and visioning. Want to discuss how a values retreat might unlock your own nonprofit? Give me a shout.

Nonprofits and the Culture Conundrum

by Josh Jacobson

Here at Next Stage, we talk a lot about nonprofit strategy. Seriously, so much. Click around our website, and you’ll see thoughtfully crafted pages and myriad blog posts outlining our approach to strategic planning, resource development, talent acquisition and operational excellence. But there’s one area of nonprofit strategy that we don’t think we’ve fully explored just yet, and that’s nonprofit organizational culture.

You might be wondering: just how important is it that nonprofits develop an intentional organizational culture?

In a word: essential.

At a time when so many external pressures are conspiring to disrupt the nonprofit business model, the existence — and protection — of organizational culture is a great stabilizing force that can overcome rough seas and serve as connective tissue for stakeholders.

Making the Intangible Tangible

First, a definition. What is culture? I’m picturing my relative who hates what he perceives to be “touchy feely” phrases. I joke with him, “let’s talk about our feelings.” It’s an easy way for me to clear the room.

But organizational culture isn’t some esoteric thing. Far from it. It’s a system of shared assumptions and beliefs that govern how people behave in a particular organization. Any group of people has a culture, even if it is somewhat unexamined or undefined. For example, your group of best friends has a culture based on what you agree is important and how you treat each other – in fact, it’s probably why they are your friends in the first place.

Given their structure, as organizations made up of dedicated volunteers and staff with assumptions and beliefs of their own, nonprofits inherently have cultures, too. But they desperately need to do a better job of defining and protecting their cultures. “To join this organization is to ascribe to these values and guiding principles.”

If your mission is the “what,” then culture (defined by guiding principles and reinforcing processes) is the “how.” Given this definition, no one should be able to represent your organization without first affirming their alignment with a set of core beliefs.

Is that your experience, fellow nonprofit do-gooder? Did you have to take an oath of office? Pinky pledge to hold up a set of values? Was anything like that even remotely discussed with you before you took the job, joined the board or engaged as a volunteer?

No? Well, that’s not all that surprising.

One would think nonprofits would be pretty good at this given their missions, but the truth is that some have allowed the social good brand of nonprofits generally to serve as a surrogate for intentional culture development. And that simply isn’t good enough.

Downside Risk

I could try to convince you why organizational culture should be a priority in your nonprofit by looking at the positives: how it creates increased productivity, how it engenders longer staff tenures and mobilized board members (yes, board members who fundraise), and how it leads to positive community perception. Sure, I could do that.

But what I’ve found working with countless nonprofits is this: culture is a rarely examined concept until it becomes a problem. It’s when productivity begins to wane, staff and board members are exhausted and no longer engaged, and the community has stopped paying attention. That’s when many organizational leaders dust off their handbooks and turn to the section on values and guiding principles.

As I promise any healthy organization exuding positivity right now – if current conditions are not undergirded by an intentional framework of values, guiding principles and processes that reinforce them, the good times can indeed come to an end.

The Culture Conundrum

The real challenge for many nonprofits lies in the assumption that culture is a destination rather than an ongoing process. It is insufficient to set organizational culture once, codify processes and then move on. Organizational culture is influenced by everyone who touches it, and while a set of shared beliefs need to be affirmed, change should be factored in too. New generations of donors, volunteers and staff members should help to influence organizational culture – not to knock it off its path, but to help reshape and guide it to contemporary relevance.

And this is where the conundrum is most pronounced in the nonprofit sector. When was the last time the topic of culture came up at a board meeting or staff meeting? And beyond these important voices, how are all of an organization’s constituents invited to continually inform and help shape the organizational culture?

What I tend to see a lot of is the exact opposite. Does your organization ascribe to the “my way or the highway” approach to top-down management? Does the Executive Director or management team exert its will as in a fiefdom? Does the board make decisions arbitrarily, without involving staff content experts? Are volunteers seen but rarely heard? Any of this sound familiar?

The culture conundrum suggests that the development and maintenance of organizational culture is an ongoing, never-ending effort, and that external and internal change is likely to continually inform how values and guiding principles – the building blocks of organization culture – are deployed in real-time.

This needn’t be a scary topic. In fact, it should be downright liberating. Drop me a line if you’d like to discuss.

Why Next Stage Is The Right Talent Search Partner

by Tanya Varanelli

We hear from nonprofit organizations all the time about their challenges in recruiting strong candidates for critical roles. Having spent my career in talent recruitment, I know what it takes to develop relationships with skilled, mission-driven individuals to ensure they are matched with the right organization and are poised to make a positive impact in their community. Next Stage brings a unique perspective to the search for talent and can be a competitive edge for savvy organizations in the battle for the best talent.

Who We Are

Next Stage was founded to ensure nonprofits and social cause start-ups in the Carolinas have access to affordable, high-quality consulting services to help them “get to the next level”. The firm brings much experience in helping nonprofits strengthen operations, encourage buy-in and harness resources.

We have led engagements with more than 120 nonprofit organizations throughout the Carolinas including many executive searches in the Charlotte region.

Why Choose Next Stage For Search Advisory Services

Having Next Stage lead your search will result in a stronger understanding of the candidate attributes important to the organization’s success and a trusted advocate in the community developing a robust pool of traditional and non-traditional candidates.

  • Commitment to Clients – Next Stage works selectively with a limited number of nonprofits to guarantee all clients receive expert counsel. We understand that each nonprofit is different and requires assessment and discernment ahead of search, aligning near-term needs with long-term organizational goals.  In partnership with search committees, we design and implement search strategies to ensure alignment of the right talent and organization.
  • In-Depth Services – Next Stage is well-positioned to help you find the right talent to continue the important work of your organization. We approach search through the lens of strategy. We are less likely to be a first choice when seeking to fill a role during a period of “business as usual”. Next Stage is most attracted to search work when an organization has reached an inflection point and sees a need for talent to help it achieve a new chapter of the organization’s work.
  • Creative Talent Solutions – We are well-versed in three pools of talents – Charlotte’s strongest nonprofit talent, individuals who have recently relocated to the Charlotte area from best practice nonprofit environments in other cities, and private sector leaders who are considering a shift to the social good sector.
  • Network in the Carolinas – The firm has worked with many organizations, community leaders and philanthropists throughout the Carolinas. Next Stage understands the importance of community and works with clients to expand the stakeholder pool. Our team has deep expertise in partnering with a wide range of organizations in the region.
  • Commitment to Onboarding – Sourcing great talent is only part of the equation and ensuring a new staff hire is well-positioned for success is a priority for Next Stage. This is the firm’s goals for customized onboarding efforts which include the development of key performance indicators.

Our Results

As noted in a recent blog post, we believe recruiting the right talent is critical for our area nonprofits. We have been proud of the many executive director and resource development searches we have completed over the past few years, with individuals like Patricia Massey Hoke (Women’s Impact Fund), Banu Valladares (Charlotte Bilingual Preschool), Kris Cole (Carolina Raptor Center), David Samson (Sustain Charlotte), Lara Ingram (Mooresville Soup Kitchen) and Jenny Prince (Lupus Foundation of America, Charlotte Chapter) serving as a testament to staying power when the right talent meets an organization where the alignment is ideal.

Want to learn more? Are you considering a search and need help developing a rigorous process to assess candidates? Reach out and let’s talk:

About the Author: Tanya Varanelli

Tanya Varanelli brings a background in nonprofit recruitment and search operations to the Next Stage team. She is focused on sourcing talented leaders for Charlotte’s thriving nonprofit community.

Tanya spent several years working for Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm serving nonprofits, where she recently served as Director of Research and Special Projects. Prior to joining Koya, Tanya was Associate Director of Recruitment at The Broad Center, where she helped recruit and train executive leadership talent to become urban school district leaders.  Tanya’s previous recruiting experience includes positions with DIRECTV, and Bain & Company.

Tanya is a member of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and volunteers with nonprofits focused on healthcare advocacy and environmental issues. Tanya holds a B.A. in Human Development/Organizational Studies and Human Resources Management from Boston College.

Relational Marketing Key to Sourcing Nonprofit Talent

by Josh Jacobson

As I wrote in The Biscuit earlier this year, the once robust pipeline of professionals seeking roles in our area nonprofit organizations has slowed considerably.

When I arrived to Charlotte in 2008, there were few job openings – organizations were weathering the downturn and temporary hiring freezes were common. By 2011, a form of nonprofit musical chairs commenced as people looked for an organization in better shape than their own. But what they found was that the grass was not necessarily greener elsewhere. Those that did make the leap were sometimes let down to learn that they had joined an organization in an even more precarious position than the nonprofit they had just left.

Ever since, it feels like Charlotte’s strongest nonprofit talent is a bit gun shy, unwilling to leave their current role for an uncertain future with an organization that may only look good on paper. Tenures have tended to be longer for those who are waiting for the right opportunity.

Against the backdrop of these entrenched professionals, more emerging nonprofits have matured their business models, adding their first paid staff roles.  So not only is there a slowing pipeline of talent, there are also more roles that need filled than ever before.

The result? Jobs boards alone just aren’t getting it done , folks. The hunt for nonprofit talent is all about relational marketing and to do it right requires an investment of time. There are no shortcuts.

This is one of the strategic advantages of using a search firm like Next Stage. Our relationships with the top organizational leaders at the CEO and CDO level means being able to cut through and connect with professionals who would add tremendous value to your organization. We are a trusted resource who cares as much about the professionals who fuel our sector as we do for the nonprofits that partner with us on search. Being an honest broker helps us allay concerns and build interest from those who are not necessarily in the market to make a change.

Want to learn more? Reach out and let’s talk:

Giving the Position Description a Facelift

by Tanya Varanelli

Finding and securing the best nonprofit talent is at its heart a marketing effort. Organizations often begin recruiting for a new role by thinking about what type of candidates will apply. First, we should consider that a strong position description is key to attracting quality candidates.

Take a step back and make sure the organization is putting its best face forward to attract the best talent. To do this, it’s important to look closely at the position description. Whether it’s a new role or a replacement hire, you want to carefully think about the scope of the role and the qualifications and capabilities the successful candidate will have.

We recommend including the following key elements about the organization, the position and information about the hiring process in your position description:

About the Organization

  • Organization OverviewClearly share the mission, values and brief history of the organization.  Nonprofit organizations require everyone on the team to promote the mission to the community, and this introduction can help determine alignment of the mission and values.
  • Workplace CultureThis is a great way to communicate the on-the-job culture to prospective candidates. It should provide a sense of what the work environment is like and what makes it special.
  • Strategic Plan An overview of the organization’s strategic vision and goals should be transparent to help the candidates understand how this role has the opportunity to make an impact reaching these goals.

About the Position

  • Position SummaryBefore getting into the detailed responsibilities of the role, make sure it can be summarized clearly in a few sentences.
  • Key ResponsibilitiesCandidates should understand the expectations of the role. Sometimes it is helpful to bullet related tasks under each area of responsibly or think about allotting a time percentage to each function of the role. Make sure to also clearly define team management or budgetary responsibility.
  • Required Qualifications and CompetenciesThink about which responsibilities and skills are needed to be successful in the role and support the mission; also which skills are considered “must-haves” or preferred but not critical. It is important to consider that many skills learned in the for-profit sector can transition well to nonprofit organizations. Use language that will attract a diverse set of candidates to apply for the role.

Other Essential Information

  • Important LogisticsBe sure that the description includes a clear title for the position, the organization’s website link, and information clarifying work status (full-time, part-time or contract), the reporting relationship and working location (i.e. remote or office-based).
  • Application ProcessInterested candidates should be given clear directions to submit an application, express interest or provide referrals from their network.
  • EEO StatementIncluding the statement demonstrates your commitment to complying with EEOC law and creating an inclusive environment. Your legal counsel will be able to help determine the necessary compliance language.

There are also a few topics you may want to consider internally before publishing a position description:

  • Discuss if you want to publicize the salary range
  • Limit jargon for an external audience
  • Carefully review language and tone to be inclusive and free of unconscious bias

It is critical that there is alignment among the organization’s leadership about how the addition of this new hire will impact workflow and culture. Clearly define the reporting relationships for the role and how this person will collaborate with other team members to help advance the mission of the organization. Make sure everyone is on the same page and plan to revisit the position description regularly as the organization evolves. Finally, be realistic! We all want to find that perfect unicorn, but we should remain open that the best candidate for the role will reveal themselves through the recruitment process.

Want to learn more about crafting insightful and targeted position descriptions? Are you considering a search and need help developing a rigorous process to assess candidates? Reach out and let’s talk:

Image: Katarzyna Białasiewicz


Tanya Varanelli is Project Manager at Next Stage with a background in nonprofit recruitment and search operations. She is focused on sourcing talented leaders for Charlotte’s thriving nonprofit community. Tanya spent several years working for Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm serving nonprofits, where she recently served as Director of Research and Special Projects. Prior to joining Koya, Tanya was Associate Director of Recruitment at The Broad Center, where she helped recruit and train executive leadership talent to become urban school district leaders.  Tanya’s previous recruiting experience includes positions with DIRECTV, and Bain & Company. Tanya is a member of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and volunteers with nonprofits focused on healthcare advocacy and environmental issues. Tanya holds a B.A. in Human Development/Organizational Studies and Human Resources Management from Boston College.



Nonprofits & Pay For Performance? You Betcha.

by Josh Jacobson

It’s time we got comfortable with a once-taboo subject: providing increased compensation and bonus for the employees of nonprofit organizations based on individual performance.

But to do it, we need to talk about KPIs.

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. KPIs drive the underlying business models of countless private sector companies but are too often nonexistent inside nonprofit organizations, and that needs to be fixed if we endeavor to have our nonprofits achieve their missions. I mean, there’s a reason they are so ubiquitous in corporate America – it is because they work.

Different than outcome goals alone, KPIs break down overarching goals into metric segments that indicate one is on the pathway to success. For example, to ensure a program succeeds at helping 100 people be better educated, one could break that down into segments of program development, marketing and awareness-building, implementation, quality assessment, etc. Output (counting) and outcome (impact) metrics are both important to measure. They create accountability and buy-in, like how a recipe helps to create a finished meal.

KPIs are also important if you want to implement any sort of incentivization structure (or pay-for-performance). Without knowing how to measure success, it will be difficult to provide reward with compensation and bonus.

Wait, nonprofits are allowed to do that? Absolutely.

In fact, I’d argue that the absence of incentivization is likely keeping top talent from considering roles in your nonprofit organization, and may be the reason some of your best talent moves on.

Someone along the journey of the social good sector decided to severely limit nonprofits, creating separate rules that govern them that would never fly in the private sector. Imagine telling Bank of America that providing financial incentives for performance is somehow unethical. It is at the heart of capitalism that the best talent is not only well-compensated, but given a clear ladder to understand what they need to achieve to unlock it.

So why should nonprofits be any different?

It is already hard enough to attract the smartest, most capable people to the nonprofit sector. Compensation in general is much lower than in the private sector. The nonprofit business model is a messy one, with so many stakeholders (board members, donors, funders, volunteers, etc) influencing the staff member’s work. And while successes in business are front page news, nonprofits are rarely celebrated in a similar fashion.

Getting creative with compensation is one area nonprofits can level the playing field (a bit).

We have helped nonprofit leaders at the board and Executive Director level create incentivization structures for their organizations that have become critical to getting the strongest applicants for open roles to consider making a move. Considering a CEO/Executive Director search? It is a near-requirement.

For development professionals, this becomes a bit trickier. As a card-carrying member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, I ascribe to the principle that one’s salary should not be directly tied to how much money is raised. This is considered unethical and for good reasons – it may create twisted incentivizes that promote the wrong thing. But funding raised can definitely be a part of a more multi-faceted set of KPIs that also rewards for other types of outputs and outcomes, e.g. achieving goals set for face-to-face cultivation, flawless execution of an event, number of new donors attracted.

I predict pay-for-performance to become a best practice of nonprofit human resources in the coming years, a recognition of the way technology has driven accountability and assessment for the sector more generally.

Want to learn more? Considering a search and needing help thinking through how best to create an incentivization model? Reach out and let’s talk:

Photo Credit: everythingpossible

What Is Up with the Nonprofit Talent in Charlotte?

by Josh Jacobson

It’s tough out there folks. We hear from organizations all the time about their challenges in recruiting suitable candidates for critical roles. Where once there appeared to be an abundance, there now seems to be a trickle. What gives?

We have a number of theories that we’ll explore over the next month, including:

  • Frozen-in-time salary structures lacking incentivization and pay-for-performance
  • Talent pools reluctant to trade their current challenges for a new set of unknown factors
  • A diminished pipeline of early career professionals committed to nonprofit service
  • Too little commitment to professional development
  • Too few sources of capacity-building support
  • Risk intolerance to consider nontraditional candidates
  • And sadly, it’s not them, it’s you.

Despite a myriad of factors, we know that your nonprofit organization can be successful in recruiting Charlotte’s best and brightest talent. This has been a focus for Next Stage for some time now and we have built a track record of success in this work for multiple organizations in the Charlotte area. Our recent commitment to talent recruitment only deepens our resolve.

The battle for talent is real and we are a competitive edge for savvy organizations.

In September, Next Stage will focus its digital content on the importance of staffing talent to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. We hope you’ll tune in and share your own experiences on our social media pages.