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  • Writer's picturePhin Sutton

Best Practices For Hiring, Onboarding, And Managing Nonprofit Employees

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

As the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, you likely wear many hats. One of the most important roles you play is that of a manager. You are responsible for hiring, onboarding, and employee compliance.

While this may seem daunting, proper hiring, onboarding, and management of nonprofit employees are essential to the success of your organization. The first step in effective management is hiring the right employees. When looking for candidates, consider their skills, experience, values, and attitude.

Once you have found the right employees, it is vital to onboard them properly. This means orienting them to your organization's mission, values, and goals. Finally, as a manager, you must be diligent in ensuring that your organization and employees comply with all laws and regulations.

By following these simple steps, you can take measurable steps toward ensuring that your nonprofit runs smoothly and efficiently.

What Makes Nonprofit Employees Different?

Before we dive into managing nonprofit employees, it's essential to understand what makes them different from employees in other sectors. Nonprofit employees are often passionate about their work and mission. They want to make a difference and feel that their work is valuable.

This can be both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, nonprofit employees are often highly engaged and productive. On the other hand, it can also mean that they are more resistant to change and may have difficulty compromising.

Another key difference between nonprofit and for-profit employees is compensation. In many cases, nonprofit employees are paid less than their for-profit counterparts. This can be due to limited funding or because donors want as much money to go toward the cause as possible.

Finally, nonprofits tend to have a more diverse workforce than for-profit organizations. This is often because they are working with diverse populations and communities. It's essential to be aware of this when managing nonprofit employees, so everyone feels valued and respected.

How To Hire Nonprofit Employees

The hiring process for nonprofit employees is similar to any other type of employee. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, it's essential to be clear about the organization's mission and values.

Nonprofit employees want to work for an organization that aligns with their values. They should also understand what the organization does and how it can help further its cause.

Second, be clear about expectations from the beginning. As we mentioned, nonprofit employees are often paid less than their for-profit counterparts. As a result, it's essential to be upfront about compensation and benefits.

Nonprofit employees should not feel like they are being taken advantage of or their work is not valued.

How To Onboard Nonprofit Employees

Onboarding can be a very important part of the hiring process for any type of employee. For nonprofit employees, it is essential because onboarding helps new individuals understand their role and contribution to an organization's mission statement and how they might help further its cause with additional tasks or projects from day one on board!

To ensure these points are communicated clearly during orientation sessions - which typically last about two weeks after starting work-time--it’s best that all staff members know what kind of activities will take place while being trained before arriving at camp so there won't be any surprises.

Activities might include:

  • Reviewing the organization's history, mission, and values

  • Learning about the community served by the nonprofit

  • Learning about the specific programs and services offered by the nonprofit

  • Shadowing other employees to learn about their roles

  • Attending workshops and training on topics relevant to the nonprofit sector

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources available to help you hire and onboard nonprofit employees. The National Council of Nonprofits has a great resource guide to help you get started or refine your approach.

How To Manage Nonprofit Employees

Now that we've looked at some of how nonprofit employees differ from other types of employees, let's take a look at how to manage them effectively:

Define roles and expectations from the beginning

As a manager, one of your most important duties is to set clear expectations for each team member. This ensures they know their expectations and can work as a cohesive unit towards success! Take time in the beginning when defining roles, so everyone knows their role within this new system without any confusion or conflict arising later to achieve optimal results quickly with minimal fussing around trying to figure things out along the way.

Having said all those wonderful things about knowing how you want people to perform specific tasks before getting started... I'd also recommend creating written documents that outline job responsibilities by including possible examples because conflicts sometimes happen, and people forget what they agreed to do or miscommunicate information. This way, there's no ambiguity, and you can move forward more confidently.

Build a strong rapport

Since nonprofit employees are often passionate about their work, building a solid rapport with them from the beginning is crucial. Get to know them personally so you can understand what motivates them and drives them to do their best work. You will be better equipped to manage your team effectively by building a solid rapport.

Be clear about compensation

As we mentioned before, compensation is often an issue for nonprofit employees. Be sure to be clear about compensation from the beginning, so there are no surprises later on down the road.

Employees should not feel they are being taken advantage of or their work is not valued. Be transparent about salary ranges as well as any bonuses or other forms of compensation so that your team knows what they can expect to receive for their hard work.

Promote open communication

Open communication is vital in any workplace, especially in nonprofits where emotions can run high, and passions tend to run deep. Encourage your team members to communicate with you about anything on their minds openly. This will help ensure that problems are dealt with early on before they can fester and grow into more significant issues.

Employment Laws for Nonprofits

Here are a few key focus areas for nonprofits that should not be overlooked:

Equal pay

Nonprofits must follow the same equal pay laws as for-profit organizations. This means that employees must be paid equally for doing the same job, regardless of gender, race, or other protected characteristics.

Minimum wage

Nonprofits are subject to the same minimum wage laws as for-profit organizations. This means that employees must be paid at least the minimum wage the government sets unless they fall under an exemption.


Overtime rules are generally the same for nonprofits as they are for for-profits. Employees who work more than 40 hours a week must be paid time and a half for their overtime hours.

Some unique employment laws apply specifically to nonprofits. These include:

Volunteer Protection Act

The Volunteer Protection Act protects volunteers from being sued for wrongdoing while volunteering for a nonprofit organization. This law does not, however, protect volunteers from intentional wrongs or gross negligence.

Don't Treat Volunteers Like Employees

While volunteers are essential to many nonprofits, it's important to remember that they are not employees. Volunteers should not be treated like employees regarding their roles, responsibilities, or compensation. Volunteers should only be given tasks within their skillset and comfort level. They should also be made aware that they can stop volunteering without notice.

If you treat volunteers like employees, you risk violating the Volunteer Protection Act. This law protects volunteers from being sued for wrongful acts that they commit while volunteering for a nonprofit organization. This law does not, however, protect volunteers from intentional wrongs or gross negligence.

Don't Forget to Withhold Taxes From Employees

Nonprofits must withhold taxes from their employee's paychecks, just like for-profit organizations. Remember to withhold federal, state, and local taxes from your employees' paychecks. You must also ensure that you promptly remit these taxes to the appropriate agencies.

You could be subject to penalties and interest if you don't withhold taxes from your employees' paychecks. Additionally, your employees could be subject to penalties and interest if they fail to pay their taxes.

So it's essential to ensure that you withhold the appropriate amount of taxes from your employees' paychecks and promptly remit these taxes to the appropriate agencies.


Managing nonprofit employees requires a different approach than managing employees in other sectors. By taking the time to understand what makes them different and using effective management techniques, you can set your team up for success.

By clearly defining roles, building strong rapport, being transparent about compensation, and promoting open communication, you will create an environment where your nonprofit can thrive.

Quantum Benefits does not just share vital information for our nonprofit clients; we help our clients make better decisions with the available information. We offer employers superior, cost-effective employer solutions for their employees and can help you incorporate these growing trends into your health benefits plan.

Give us a call today at 203-946-0320 or fill out our contact form to speak with a representative.

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