4 Things Your Nonprofit Can Do to Recruit & Retain Millennial Leadership

If a key leader at your organization left their job today, who would fill their place? Developing the next generation of nonprofit leaders is critical to the future of every nonprofit organization.

Millennials now makeup the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, but many nonprofits do not yet have policies and systems in place that attract young professionals, invest in their professional development, or incentivize them to stay and carry out their mission.

Here are four things your nonprofit can do to recruit and retain talented young professionals:

  1. Think differently about the millennial resume and skillset. The notion that millennials "job hop" at a higher rate than other generations is a myth. Nevertheless, they have grown into the job market in the midst of a recession, with crippling student loan debt, persistent unemployment, and low-paying jobs. In the case of a young person without quite enough on-the-job experience, nonprofits can look beyond professional experience to lived-experience, especially if applicable to the mission. For example, if your organization works in hunger-relief, a person who has experienced food insecurity will understand the purpose of your mission on a deeper level and would likely be more invested in solving the problem long-term. Technical skills can be taught on the job, but a personal appreciation for the impact of a mission is invaluable.
  2. Include a salary range with job descriptions. Salary ranges help to break down barriers to pay equity across many demographics, most notably gender and race. Nonprofit leaders can hire more equitably by including a salary range with new employment opportunities. As a millennial woman, I have personally benefited from this practice. The first time I negotiated a job contract, I did not understand how the process worked. But because the organization listed a salary range with the job description, I knew where to start. This empowered me to successfully negotiate my starting salary and jump-started my career with the organization. Even with regular raises, workers--especially women--often do not catch up to their pay potential without strong negotiations at the start. Listing salary ranges is a simple yet powerful way to kick the gender pay-gap in the face.
  3. Cultivate a good workplace culture. When people come to YNPN Triangle NC events searching for nonprofit jobs, a common question they ask is: do people enjoy working there? We know this is an important factor many young professionals consider when searching for a new organization to serve. Good workplace culture often arises from organizations that value people, employee morale, open communication, flexibility, and work-life balance. Additionally, equity, diversity, and inclusion play an important role in creating the type of work environment attractive to the millennial generation. And finally, professional development is a must. Millennials want to work at organizations which invest in their staff, and not just executive-level leadership.
  4. Evaluate them and provide constructive feedback on a regular basis. Contrary to the stereotype, millennials want more than participation trophies. Create formal and informal ways to provide feedback for your millennial staff in between annual evaluations. This could be through quick check-ins to touch base or more formal quarterly evaluations. Young professionals care about their career development and appreciate sincere feedback for their growth. As a bonus, this will also help your millennial team members ensure they are developing their skills and holding themselves accountable.

With our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and our desire to enjoy working at our jobs, millennials are changing the status quo across many industries, including the nonprofit sector. At YNPN, we believe this will benefit us all and help to build a more inclusive, powerful social sector. It is time to incorporate millennials into your succession plan and invest in the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

Molly Rivera serves as Vice Chair on the board of directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Triangle and has been involved with the network for almost five years. By day she works in Raleigh at the ACLU of North Carolina as their Communications Associate.

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