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Developing a workforce staffing plan for your nonprofit

Staffing is ultimately about people. After all, you want to find the right people — those who have shared goals and priorities and want their work to contribute to your larger mission. A strong workforce staffing plan lays out current and future staffing needs, ensuring that your nonprofit has the right number of people with the right skills in the right positions.

The planning process

Workforce planning is the process an organization uses to analyze its workforce and determine the steps it must take to prepare for future staffing needs. Developing a workforce plan presents an important opportunity for your organization.

If your nonprofit is just getting off the ground, use the planning process to clarify your staff structure and to group jobs and duties together. Depending on your needs, an HR consultant might be an affordable and efficient way to get the most out of the process.

If your nonprofit is more established, begin the planning process by conducting a jobs analysis to determine what capacity you already have and what needs remain unfilled. Document current positions, and then ask employees for detailed descriptions of their current workload — followed by what they view as their top two or three staffing needs.

Use this information as the base assessment of your organization's staffing needs. Similarly, you can use such evaluations to monitor staffing needs in the future. Ideally, it's an ongoing process that allows you to address any gaps in staffing before those gaps take a toll on productivity or morale.

Draft your workforce staffing plan

Once your staff structure is clarified or your jobs analysis completed, you can compose your workforce staffing plan. You might use a chart or table to identify:

  • Key tasks
  • The job or management category those tasks fit into
  • Any other necessary information, such as key responsibilities or certifications
  • The job title or name of the employee who currently holds the position — or the tasks and responsibilities that don't currently have an employee attached to them

A strong workforce staffing plan should result in actionable items: new strategies for developing your existing workforce, and new positions or roles that need to be filled by hiring.

Strengthen your nonprofit capacity with talent development

Of course, most nonprofits run on fairly tight budgets. Consider whether you can fill gaps in staffing by increasing your current capacity, rather than adding new employees and therefore new salaries.

Bolster your staff to encourage a long-term future with your organization. Provide challenging assignments that have a knock-on effect of professional development. Move employees into new roles that'll help them expand their skill sets. Support these efforts with accurate and specific job descriptions, and clear and regular performance appraisals. Both can go a long way toward encouraging employee dedication and productivity.

Key to this process is employee engagement. In the words of famed management consultant Peter Drucker, an organization must make sure that "its mission, its values and its objectives are real and meaningful to people rather than just public relations and rhetoric." Success here results in actively engaged employees.

Although you can't force engagement, you can show employees how their work makes a difference. You can also ask what the work means to them. Keep the conversation going to foster a sense of purpose and meaning — and a continued desire to make your organization's vision a reality.

Make strategic new hires

If you're able to recruit new staff members, keep the same principles in mind. Talented people often make the choice to work for nonprofits because their personal goals extend beyond a salary. Nonprofits tend to be good workplaces where hard work is appreciated and employees serve a greater purpose than profits and stock prices.

When talking to prospective employees, articulate your organization's mission and vision. Talk about the various ways your organization helps improve people's lives.

To help your recruiting efforts, consider developing an employee referral rewards program. A current employee understands your organization's culture and can give a sense of whether a new person will be a good fit for the organization.

Look toward the future

Like strategic plans and business plans, your workforce staffing plan will become part of the living document library of your organization. Revisit it regularly, updating it as your nonprofit grows and changes.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.



Baltimore-based writer and educator