How a Non-Profit Can Hire the RIGHT First Employee

Posted in hiring / staff team

How a Non-Profit Can Hire the RIGHT First Employee

As a smaller non-profit grows, volunteers take on more and more of the operational tasks. What might have started as a couple dozen people hosting a few fundraising events each year or taking turns to open the park gates and collect the garbage, quickly turns into volunteer burnout and a rapid turnover. So, the non-profit starts to think about hiring a year-round employee.

Non-profits will likely have some experience with paid staff through annual summer student grants. Tis the season for summer student grants as I write this post. But who does a non-profit need when its time to hire a year-round employee? Disagreements will arise as there will be many opinions on who to hire: a bookkeeper, a fundraising coordinator, an executive director, a membership admin. Confusion is common at this stage.

There are two areas to consider before deciding what type of employee to hire.

First, determine what are the tasks that current volunteers really hate doing? A few quick questions with key volunteers will produce a list of answers to determine if, for example, people loathe writing the grant applications, or can’t stand paying the bills, or dread chasing down membership renewals. Make a list of the answers.

Second, what are the areas with the highest volunteer turnover? If a non-profit doesn’t maintain any volunteer stats, then the board, or key decision-makers will need to have a conversation to determine these answers. Make a list of the answers.

Now put both lists together and see where the overlaps occur. Those commonalities are the priority areas a non-profit should consider hiring a year-round employee to handle.

A non-profit’s first (non-student) year-round employee doesn’t need to start out as a full-time 40-hour per week job. Start small, maybe 5-10 hours per week, budget dependent, and build from there. Determine success by evaluating the collective relief of the volunteer pool. If the volunteers report back that they no longer feel as burned out, then the non-profit knows that the right type of employee was hired. If a non-profit isn’t noticing happier volunteers, then a shift will need to be made to have an employee who handles a different priority area.

Determine success by evaluating the collective relief of the volunteer pool.

If your non-profit is considering hiring its first year-round employee, strive to have that new hire lighten the load of key volunteer areas. Happier volunteers will stay with the non-profit longer, feel they have a better balance with their work/family time, and will strengthen the operating system. Over time, a non-profit can choose to bring on another part-time staffer or increase the hours for their first employee.

When a non-profit wants to hire its first year-round employee but doesn’t know what type of employee that should be, striving to lighten the load of volunteers will be the most successful.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ideas. My mission is to take the mystery out of running a small non-profit. If you know someone who needs to read this, why not grab the link, and share it with them. Let’s work together to make it easy to hire the RIGHT first employee.


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created to give you tools, tips, and templates to remove the mystery of learning to run a small non-profit. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2022 All Rights Reserved


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