Successful Scaling Requires Staffing Planback

Gayle A. Brandel, President/CEO, Professionals for NonProfits

As I listened to the impressive speakers at the Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Successful Innovation to Scale, I was excited by what I heard. In particular, I was awed by the outstanding nonprofits that successfully serve various communities in the most amazing ways and are now planning to expand their services and mission to larger communities.

Yes, I was heartened by the discussions with foundations that find ways to help nonprofits grow. I was glad to hear that the government is stepping up and that corporations are willing to discuss social responsibility.

But, I was most impressed by those nonprofits and their plans for the future.

As the CEO of Professionals for NonProfits, I am always thinking about nonprofit staffing issues. And so as I listened, I wondered: As high performing nonprofits develop plans for scaling, do their plans include strategies for finding the staff — leaders, managers, entry level — that will be critical to their growth?

Workforce projections warn us to expect a labor shortages in the coming decade. In addition, many baby boomers in the nonprofit sector will be retiring in the next few years, leaving a leadership gap.

  • How will nonprofit organizations find the right staff to keep up with their continuing growth and the needs of their expanded organizations?
  • Are nonprofits with scaling plans fully aware of the staffing difficulties they will encounter?
  • Have they budgeted for competitive salaries – on a par with the for-profit world so they can attract the best?
  • What about benefits and ongoing professional training? Is that in the budget?

We all know that it is never easy to find the right talent and, no doubt, that will continue to be the case. Most scaling plans are long term, so growing nonprofits will need to find leaders who can manage growth and the mid-level staff to back them up as the organization grows.

It is essential that every scaling plan include a strategy for staffing growth for the next 3 to 5 years, a plan that includes budgets for staff, hiring costs, benefits, training, and temp assistance as the organization revs up for the future.

So many exciting plans! But the organization that assertively and strategically provides for staffing needs will be the most successful in scaling. 

For complete coverage of the 2010 inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Successful Innovation to Scale, go to Ventureneer SIEX10.