Is Your Nonprofit Recruiting & Retaining by Using a Mission-Driven Approach?

Is Your Nonprofit Recruiting & Retaining by Using a Mission-Driven Approach?

By: Eugene Fram        Free Digital Image

Recruiting and retaining able people for nonprofit careers has always been a challenge.  Salary levels have not been comparable to business organizations and some government posts. Many small and medium sized nonprofits have frontline personnel organizationally located only two levels below the Board of Directors.  Consequently, career paths can appear stymied.

The employment situation has changed for two population cohorts.  They are: some millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and those in the Generation Z cohort (born between 1997 and 2012).

The two cohorts witnessed  friends and relatives in high paying positions being unemployed and unable to locate new positions with similar responsibilities and pay levels. Many also may have been impacted by the poor moves in the Great Resignation and/or their schools being closed by the Covid Pandemic.  When seeking employment, they now first evaluate the mission of an organization and assess how they may contribute to it.  As mission driven organizations, nonprofits are in a strong position benefit from this movement when recruiting and retaining through a mission approach.

Following are four current examples of college graduates who have placed mission as a prime employment inspiration.  A similar approach can be utilized for high school graduates seeking full-time employment. (See job description below.)

  • Henry, a member of the Generation Z Cohort, has an undergraduate degree.  Currently he is in his first full-time position with a company that manufactures products that support the environment. Recently the firm had to reduce its workforce by 20%.  Henry wasn’t impacted.  But it has started him to consider a move to for-profits and nonprofits whose missions center on the environment and provide him with career growth opportunities.
  • Sally, a member of the millennial cohort, has both an undergraduate and a Master’s degrees, plus several years of business experience.  She has been employed by a midsized nonprofit for about four years. Intrigued by the agency’s mission to assist two groups of disadvantaged persons,  she began as a data analyst, acquired some counseling abilities and now holds a management position.
  • Ravi, part of the Generation Z Cohort, has an undergraduate degree from a liberal arts college and is working as a union organizer.  His mission at this point is to keep his job for two years and then determine whether to seek a public policy law degree to enhance his background.
  • Frank is a recent Generation Z graduate with STEM emphasis. He is currently working at a university library, self-supporting through. a gig economy job.  His mission is to determine whether he should seek a full-time position in library management.

Opportunities For Nonprofit Boards

As part of their overview responsibilities, nonprofit board members need to determine whether their agency’s hiring managers are designing mission purpose job descriptions. These are ones that have heart and mind impacts and indicate the opportunity to grow professionally. Some legacy nonprofit board members may not be aware of this employee focused approached to recruiting. The CEO and Board Chair need to orient them to its importance.

For decades nonprofit board members have needed a tool to differentiate themselves in  the hiring and retention processes.  They  should invite candidates from these two cohorts to join their mission efforts that can lead to a successful multi-decade career.

Example of a Successful Mission Centered Job Description

Senior Engineer @ agetech startup (remote ok)

Our firm is building the next generation of SaaS for the growing market of senior services.

We’re a women-founded, mission-driven startup tackling the $100B+ senior services market to enable delivery of life-sustaining services for older adults. We partner with agencies across the country who are at the frontlines of care, but who are currently not tech-enabled and are wasting 60% of their time on administrative paperwork that can be digitized and automated.  Our firm’s modern software solutions for senior services allow them to streamline workflow, increase capacity to serve more seniors, and track outcomes on senior well-being.  Our firm has raised $10M in capital and is backed by leading VCs in healthcare and SaaS, including Felicis Ventures, Maverick Ventures, and Ulu Ventures.  

The position

As a Senior Engineer at our firm you will be responsible for designing, building, testing, and maintaining the core software that our customers rely on. The main expectations are: 

  • Experienced coding skill set: Able to take high command of a defined area of a codebase. Experience with our tech stack (Ruby on Rails, Bootstrap, Stimulus, Postgres) or possibly a similar framework such as Django.
  • Develop people: Support the work of a team of 1-3 junior engineers and work closely with product managers to complete projects and develop junior talent 
  • Startup agility & initiative:  You’re part of a small, scrappy startup team that punches above its weight.  This means getting stuff done, figuring things out, marshaling resources to achieve your goals. 

What Makes This a Mission Driven Job Description?

  • “Remote Work OK”. Common practice for this type of position.
  •  The description as “agetech” is quickly defined as serving senior citizen clients.
  •  Proudly indicates that the firm has been “woman-founded.”
  •  Shows that the senior service market for its product is substantial.
  •  The products the firm develops  help senior service agencies to streamline their paperwork flows and contribute to to senior well-being.
  •  The startup is funded by noted healthcare venture capital firms.
  •  The position requires the senior engineer to support the work of 1 to 3 junior engineers and work closely with product managers, a career broadening opportunity.


  1. Great insights on how non-profits can recruit and retain talent through a mission-driven approach! It’s good to see that job seekers are now assessing the mission of an organization before applying. Nonprofit boards should take note of this approach and design job descriptions that showcase how their organizations’ missions can benefit potential employees.
    founder of balance thy life


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