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Nonprofit organizations across Arizona are hiring. That’s the good news.

There are plenty of jobs, both full and part time, from entry to senior level in an expansive range of roles and responsibilities.

Even better news is that many nonprofits responding to a recent Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits survey are looking to bring on as many as 10 new employees in the next six months.

Now, the bad news. Many of the positions already open remain unfilled. 

More than 80% of the nonprofits responding to the survey said their biggest issues were finding qualified applicants or even enough candidates in general, noncompetitive salaries, marketplace competition and rejection of offers. It’s a a trend mirrored nationwide among both for-profit and nonprofit businesses.

Making it even more difficult is attracting and retaining talent during a pandemic.

A July article on the Society for Human Resource Management website pointed out that some organizations “simply don’t have the resources and, in many cases, the bench strength” to compete with larger institutions. 

The same article listed several additional key challenges, including:

  • Expectations about diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), and
  • Safety and health in recognition of “employees’ comfort levels with respect to health and working conditions.”

The executive search firm McDermott + Bull in a white paper titled “6 Trends Driving Nonprofit Hiring in 2021” added another perspective by pointing to the importance of succession planning in hiring strategies.

“A substantial number of retirements or leadership moves planned for 2020 were put on hold as leaders remained in place to shepherd their organizations through the pandemic. However, with many organizations successfully transitioned to remote work and a vaccine rollout underway, retirements and other significant leadership changes are moving forward…creating the potential for a tight market as the year progresses. Succession planning is paramount as these organizations consider what skills they need to create greater impact in this new landscape.”

So, where do we go from here and how do we engage with and attract qualified applicants motivated to advance the missions of nonprofits serving communities throughout the state?

As the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits moves forward in our own diversity, equity and inclusion journey, we have taken a deeper look at our policies and operations. We have developed and put into practice important, equitable best practices that we encourage all nonprofits to consider, if they aren’t already. 

Those steps include: 

  • Applications: upon receipt, remove identifying information including but not limited to: name, age, gender, educational history, location and email before having the hiring team review the applications. Assigning each applicant a number at this step is a good practice. “Blind” reviews are an easy way to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion work into this process. 
  • Job postings: including a salary range is now a required field for job postings on the Alliance Career Center. Providing a salary range is a practice that models transparency and is recommended for advancing equitable compensation. Disclosing benefits, time off and work-from-home policies in a job posting assist with equitable practices. When salary ranges aren’t disclosed, women, individuals with disabilities, and people of color are most likely to be affected. As Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN explains: “When you’re not willing to post salaries, you’re telling potential applicants that you’re not committed to equity and that you don’t respect their time. Why would you want to start the relationship this way? And more importantly, why should anyone want to work for you?”
  • Nonprofit organizations also should look at additional hiring factors such as: where postings are placed, if postings eliminate any applicants with felony records, and if postings require each applicant to do actual work without pay before being hired such as submitting a plan or design as part of the application process. 

As we slowly climb out of a pandemic that has created an undeniable dynamic shift in hiring practices and job-search perspectives across the board, it’s imperative that we, as employers, adapt to the ever-changing environment creatively, collectively and strategically.


Kristen Merrifield is the CEO of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits.