Skip to main content

Site Navigation

Site Search

mission Matters

Fix 6 Common Nonprofit Employment Mistakes

August 20, 2015

Retaining employees and reducing turnover is a tough job for nonprofit leaders, but fortunately there are ways to make hiring and managing employees easier.

Less funding, support, and fewer staff members are common issues faced by nonprofits and can make a nonprofit leadership position very tough. Dealing with these stress factors can lead to deficient employment practices and difficulties in retaining valued employees.

6 mistakes to avoid

It is important for nonprofit employers to be careful. Some of the areas of concern where you need to be careful might include:

  1. Filling a position quickly and carelessly. Nonprofit work is unique and challenging- make sure you are upfront about the inevitable challenges the employee will face in his/her new position. Simply filling the position will do you more harm than good. You can still sell the candidate on the passionate mission of your organization, but you will find that disclosing potential challenges will be helpful in choosing the right person.
  2. Firing an employee to his/her surprise. Make sure that when you speak to an employee about his/her performance and intend it to be a warning, the employee realizes it’s a warning. Be sure to provide adequate counsel to the employee about the issues and how he/she can fix them. If not, the employee could be blindsided when you decide to fire him/her and file a claim against the organization. Many times, the main issue here is lack of documentation to back your decision. Standing up for your organization when a terminated employee brings claims of unfair termination against you will be significantly easier if you have written documentation of what the employee lacked or had issues with.
  3. Having no way of documenting performance issues. Make sure your managers are documenting performance issues as they occur. This can be tough given the high pressure and responsibilities of overworked managers (common in nonprofits). Addressing these issues is part of their job so be sure that your human resource department and department heads consistently check in with managers on employee performance.
  4. Inappropriately adhering to employees’ preferences for pay. Employees making salary pay are only supposed to be paid as such if they fall under one of the exemptions to the hourly rule of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). There are also state rules for salary pay that you will want to be aware of. Since independent contractors are not considered employees and are therefore not included on payroll, it might seem like a good choice to classify someone as such to save on payroll taxes, but you will run into trouble with federal, state, and local authorities by doing this. The IRS has a number of tests to help determine whether an employee is considered an independent contractor, and it also may vary by state.
  5. Neglecting disability issues and medical leaves of absence. Make sure to make disabled employees aware of their ability (under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act) to request special accommodations to help them perform their job more comfortably. Always write to an employee at the very start of their leave of absence to indicate how much time off has been approved and at the conclusion of their absence to prepare for any medical restrictions when they return to work. If you are an employer subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there are additional notification requirements you will want to read up on.
  6. Writing personnel policies that are unrealistic.Tailor your employee policies to fit the people you actually employ, not the “ideal” employee that generic policies typically speak of.

Questions? Contact any member of our Not-for-Profit Services Team.

Stay informed. Get all the latest news delivered straight to your inbox.

Also in Mission Matters Blog

up arrow Scroll to Top