In Times of High Demand for Tech Talent, Do Nonprofits Suffer?
Today’s news is flush with reports that technology companies are on a hiring spree. New York City’s economy is growing at an explosive rate that is pushing 80% of companies to add additional technology and engineering resources to their staff this year, with 53% increasing their technology teams by more than 20%.
This is wonderful news for experienced engineers and STEM grads seeking employment. Competition for the best and brightest is high and companies and organizations are competing in a manner akin to the growth of Silicon Valley 15-20 years ago. But with the compensation packages, benefits and perks being offered by many to compete for this talent, can nonprofit organizations find the strategic and hands-on technological skillsets they need to sustain their growth?
The simple answer is ‘yes’, but it takes a unique effort and focus on key principles to sustain a strong IT team:
Executive and Board Buy-In
There are still many organizations that look at their technology teams as a commodity or support group that can be easily replaced or outsourced. It’s an uphill climb for nonprofits to convince their boards that a financial investment in technology and hiring strategic leadership is imperative for growth. Go to your Board with hard facts. Show them that a server in a closet with a fan blowing on it is not a stable environment. Demonstrate you are running multiple applications that do not interact to share information, and that this is an obstacle to creating cost-saving synergies. Print out the logs of hacking attempts per day that occur to your system. In short, you need to demonstrate the value in the investment to create the urgency for change and need for leadership.
The costs involved in identifying, recruiting, hiring and retaining strong tech talent is high. The costs to replace that talent if they leave are even higher. The best way to build a strong technology team is to hire bright capable people and constantly offer them the opportunity to learn and grow with training. By building knowledge internally, you’ll gain the competencies you need to succeed and the leverage to retain that talent long-term.
Focus on Your Mission
Compensation is always a challenging factor for nonprofits, especially in large metropolitan areas where the cost of living can be exorbitantly high. But with a strong focus on finding people who are aligned with your organization’s mission, nonprofits stand a better chance of retaining their services. Interviews should have a focus on the candidate’s alignment with the organization’s core values. This will help you identify people who have the right skill set and are also committed to the success of your stated goals. But even after they are hired, it’s important to keep internal staff focused on the mission and involve them as much as possible in understanding how they are connected to the organization’s overall success.
Recruiting strong technical talent is certainly not an easy task for nonprofit organizations, but with the right approach and the support of senior leadership, it’s possible to create an environment where strategic technical capabilities can be developed, nurtured and sustained.