Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sitting down with all of the senior team members at DRiWaterstone Human Capital to find out, in their own words, what drives them and why DRiWaterstone is one of North America’s top executive search firms for the non-profit and social impact sectors.
This week, we’re continuing our conversation with President and CEO, Jennifer Dunlap:
- What do you want candidates to know about working in the non-profit space?
What I tell candidates who are considering making the move from corporate is first, working in the non-profit space feeds your soul in a way many other organizations just can’t because you’re actually making a difference in peoples’ lives, you’re not just trying to make money for someone else.
Non-profits have tight budgets and that often means they don’t have the same staffing for-profit companies do. So, particularly young people who are early on in their careers, they can get a lot of exposure to several areas and often are given significant authority and responsibility much sooner than they might in the corporate word. If you can write, if you’re organized, if you’re a relationship builder, and if you have a passion for mission, you can do just about anything in this sector.
At the end of the day, it just feels different to work in the non-profit sector because what you do really does matter, and really does impact lives.
- What advice do you have for non-profit organizations looking to attract top talent in today’s job market?
First, non-profits can’t assume somebody just wants to work for them because they have a great mission. A great mission must be accompanied by the right benefits or salary or support. Candidates have a lot of options now, so organizations have to be competitive to attract talent.
Organizations also have to be competitive to retain talent. I worked for CARE USA for 10 years – no one does that anymore. Part of that is because non-profits aren’t creative enough in how they engage and compensate people. I’ll give you an example: in most non-profits, to get a raise you need to get a promotion. When that happens, they’re thinking vertically not horizontally. They don’t always think of compensation options that are based on skills, success, professional development, and contribution to the organization and not just on the salary band for a particular job, or options like retention or performance-based bonuses that can be more common in for-profit organizations.
There’s so much competition now, so non-profits need to think more wholistically about how to keep talented staff.
- What do you love most about working in the non-profit sector?
I got into this area because I grew up very poor and the community was very supportive of us as a family. So, when I went to college, I had the opportunity in my senior year to be a Vista Volunteer. The minute I was placed with the United Way in Rochester, I immediately felt that I was in the right place. I was able to work with a variety of non-profits and saw that these organizations were doing good work and needed my skills, insights, and experience to help them deliver on their mission. That was very attractive to me.
I spent 25 years, in the non-profit sector. I’ve done unbelievable things and been unbelievable places. I’ve seen horrible devastation. When I first worked for CARE USA, they sent me to Ethiopia to work in the feeding camps. This was during the famine in the 80s. I saw horrible devastation and human suffering, but it gave me such respect for my colleages and a real understating that the best thing I could do was go back to the U.S. and raise money so the folks in the field could do their work. So that sense that you’re part of a team and what you’re doing has real impact, that’s what keeps me focused on purpose and mission-driven organizations. And that’s what drives purpose and mission-driven candidates.
At DRiWaterstone, we work with mission and purpose-driven organizations across the U.S. to help them build high-performance teams. We’d love the chance to work with you – reach out today and book a meeting with our team and find out how we can help.