How one nonprofit is building leadership from within


Photo via iMentor. Click to visit their org page on Idealist – they currently have five jobs, two internships, and a volunteer opportunity listed on the site!

In the latest issue of HR Connections, our monthly newsletter for the nonprofit human resources community, Kim Hendler writes:

At iMentor, we’ve been faced with an age-old question: When a management position opens up in our organization, do we promote an individual contributor who is great at their job, eager for next steps, and overall a high potential employee but lacks supervisory experience and training and whom we may not be able to adequately support? Or do we hire externally, facing the significant challenge of hiring great middle managers who are a sure fit with our management culture?

As Managing Director of Talent at iMentor, Kim worked with her team and with support from the American Express Foundation to create a formal program to invest in leadership development. Her goal is to train “high performing, high potential staff…to build a strong bench for future roles requiring leadership and management skills.” Curious how they did it? Find the full article here.

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Compensation: More than just a paycheck


Have you subscribed to our monthly HR Connections newsletter? Visit to sign up.

In our most recent HR Connections newsletter, our HR and Operations Manager Kara Montermoso writes:

Many of us are drawn to work in the nonprofit sector by the missions of our organizations, but our satisfaction with our work and the ways it impacts the rest of our lives are key factors in keeping us motivated and engaged. And one aspect that can contribute to our sense of satisfaction is our total compensation.

Anyone working in nonprofit human resources—or preparing to negotiate a salary and benefits package—might want to check out the article, where Kara breaks down six general components, from salary and benefits to organizational culture.

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Developing nonprofit leaders: Easier said than done?

There are lots of theories about how to develop leaders across the nonprofit sector. But who’s putting those theories into practice, and are younger nonprofit professionals optimistic about their implementation?

This month our HRConnections newsletter features a piece from Trish Tchume, National Director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). Trish explains that YNPN’s most recent National Voice report examined just these sort of questions. The report, titled “Good in Theory, Problems in Practice,” concludes with recommendations to help nonprofit executives, emerging leaders, funders, and others effectively implement leadership development strategies.

Visit IdealistHR or YNPN to learn more. Or sound off here: does your organization have a refreshing approach to leadership development? Do you feel you can weigh in and make it even stronger?

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How to write a rejection letter


From Flickr user recoverling (Creative Commons)

Over and over, job seekers tell us that it’s frustrating, and unfortunately very common, to submit applications and never receive any indication that a hiring manager has reviewed or even received them. But what about when you do get through the door, have an interview, and don’t get hired? We recently asked our Facebook and LinkedIn communities:

Question: What was the nicest (or worst) rejection letter you ever received after a job interview? No need to name names/organizations. Just wondering what makes for the “best” kind of letter.

Commenters in our LinkedIn discussion and on our Facebook page sounded off with feedback for hiring managers:

Anything is better than nothing.

  • “The main thing is just to get a letter or some information that the position has been filled. That common courtesy is often overlooked, but much appreciated.” – Colleen, Facebook
  • “Any letter is the best letter! Organizations usually don’t bother – which is frustrating when you spend hours researching them, customizing your application packet for the position, etc.” – Rachael, Facebook
  • “Probably over 80% of my applications just disappear into the ether and I never receive any follow-up after the auto-generated notice of receipt.” – Bahman, LinkedIn

Alison Green, who blogs at Ask a Manager, has covered this topic in her posts Should employers spend time rejecting candidates who weren’t even interviewed? and Am I wrong to be insulted by this rejection letter?.

Short, sweet, and personalized when possible.

  • “They all are a bit crushing but whenever I’m provided concrete reasons, that helps considerably.” – Kate, Facebook
  • “The best rejection letter I ever received managed to make me feel better about not getting the job by telling me that they were impressed with my credentials and made clear that they had actually taken the time to look at my application.” – Marianne, LinkedIn
  • “Keep it really positive, tell the interviewee that they are welcome to call or email for additional feedback regarding the choice (if that is feasible), and wish them luck in their search. Short, sweet, to the point. Honestly, any communication at all after an interview is a big step up from my experience in the job hunt!” – Lauren, LinkedIn

To Lauren’s point, for those of you who have submitted apps, gone through interviews, and are left to ask “Why not me?,” here’s another Alison Green column—this one at U.S. News— called How to Get Feedback When You’re Rejected.

People, not robots.

  • “I think the worst one was an email with the subject line ‘Reject after application- External.’ Not only did it deliver bad news but it also did not attempt to hide the fact that it was automated, made me feel that a human being didn’t even bother to glance at my application.” – Marianne, LinkedIn
  • “Those that are clearly form letters add insult to injury in situations where you have invested literally hours in an interview process and were considered one of the top candidates.” – Kate, Facebook

Be mindful of personal relationships.

  • “A couple of rejection letters that I received from [a local chapter of a national organization] did soothe the hurt of rejection a bit. It said that not being selected was ‘in no way a reflection of your considerable abilities and skills’ or something to that effect. They were signed by the Executive Director, whom I have known personally for about 15 years.” – Robert, LinkedIn

File this under “Not OK.”

  • “The worst ever? When i was told by the person in charge of the school that they wanted to schedule an interview with me, on a specific date, I arrived at the place, to find no one to show up. It took me three weeks to finally get an apology and told that position was filled.” – Casey, Facebook

Thanks to all of the job seekers who shared your experiences. I’d love to hear from any hiring managers out there: what are the processes, time constraints, or legal considerations that sometimes prevent you from getting in touch with candidates, or from giving them personalized feedback? Have you found creative ways to manage this less-than-fun part of your job?

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Three ways you can change the face of HR


Not all HR people are like Toby from The Office. (Photo: claudiolobos, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Sometimes human resources professionals get a bad rap. Nancy Kowalski, an HR Manager at a Washington, DC nonprofit, doesn’t like seeing her field depicted as a bunch of “strict, robotic naysayers.” If you don’t either, check out our latest installment of HR Connections, where Nancy offers three ways she’s positioning HR as a positive force in her organization.

Have strong opinions of your own about HR? Want advice from others in the field? Leave a comment if you’d like to propose a topic for an upcoming newsletter.


IdealistHR: Behavioral interviews; office gift exchanges

This month’s IdealistHR newsletter is hot off the presses! November’s issue features an article about behavioral interviews (Does your hiring process need an overhaul?) and another about alternatives to the “potentially stomach-knotting office gift exchange” (‘Tis the season…).


"Oh look! A barking hot dog steamer!" Don't let this happen at your office. (Photo: Jonathan Lidbeck, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Peruse the IdealistHR archives or sign up for monthly emails by and for nonprofit human resources professionals at

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Have you ever hired the wrong person?


We've all been there. (Photo via Alex E. Proimos, Flickr/Creative Commons)

It can be hard to find a silver lining when a hiring process goes awry. In the latest issue of our human resources newsletter, we try to help you avoid those growing pains.

  • For an organization, the loss of time, money, and energy is huge enough – but there’s often a significant blow to staff morale. Amelia explores ways to design a hiring process that can minimize unfortunate outcomes.
  • Meanwhile, Kara considers one crucial step: making sure we get the best possible applications. What makes a job application successful? You can weigh in here.

Want tips and ideas about human resources delivered to your inbox each month? Your wish is our command.

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Our 2011 survey: Is the sector bouncing back?


Click here to read the report at

This past spring, we reached out to the organizations on Idealist to learn how you had been impacted by the financial crisis of 2008, and how you were feeling about the future.

More than 3,000 of you responded: human resources professionals, executive directors, fundraising managers, volunteer coordinators – and often, all of the above. You work for small nonprofits and large ones. And as of June 2011, your mood overall seemed to be one of cautious optimism. Click here for the survey results.

Of course, this offers just one snapshot. Do the survey results ring true for what’s happening at your organization? Did things change this summer?

Sound off in the comments below, or join the conversation at, our new space for nonprofit HR professionals.

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How to retain top techie talent

Recently, our nonprofit careers mastermind Amy Potthast wrote a piece called Seven Tips for Techies in a Nonprofit Job Interview for the NTEN blog. (If you’re trying to break into nonprofit work, it’s a great read even if you’re not a techie.)

When we tweeted the link yesterday, @SponsorChange tweeted back to ask if we could also offer strategies that nonprofits can use to retain “top techies and interns.”


Why yes, yes we can.

I shared the question with Amy and with Hannah Kane, who co-directs our website team. Hannah’s reply:

  • Pay competitive salaries
  • Provide professional development opportunities (e.g. technical conferences)
  • For web developers: Consider implementing an 80/20 program where 20% of the developers’ time is spent on projects they’re personally interested in. I like Kiva’s “Innovation Iteration” model.
  • Include technologists at the management level

Amy also pointed out that our web team appreciates “Donuts…massages…and strong project management including respect and willingness to listen to limitations.”

And I would add “have really good hiring practices!” to that list; you’re probably going to have a hard time retaining someone if you’re not confident that you hired the right person. Read NTEN’s Finding the Right People: Strategies for Effective IT Hiring (or their book, Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission…or their articles on planning…)

What about you? How do you communicate with and show appreciation for the techies who help your organization run?

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For some nonprofits, help with employee health insurance

Part of the health care reform bill passed last year gives a tax break to small nonprofits that provide health insurance to their employees.


From Steve Snodgrass / Flickr Creative Commons

“But how can this be?” you may ask. “Nonprofits don’t pay taxes, do they?”

Well, that’s a complicated question in its own right (we have a whole page about it here), but in this case, an organization that qualifies can keep part of the Medicare taxes and income tax-withholding money it normally would transmit to the Treasury and use it to offset part of the cost of employees’ health insurance. Note: the employees still get full credit toward social security and next year’s tax bill thanks to the way this program has been designed.

The maximum credit is available to organizations with fewer than 10 employees and average wages under $25,000; orgs with more than 25 employees or average wages over $50,000 are not eligible at all.

As you might expect, it’s a little complicated. Figuring out whether an organization qualifies requires knowing a good deal about its finances and payroll. Knowing which forms to use and how to fill them out requires understanding the details of this program works. Luckily, there are a couple of resources that will help puzzled Executive Directors or Human Resources professionals:

Any organization that looks like it may qualify for the tax credit based on the National Women’s Law Center’s chart may want to have someone attend the IRS webinar to get a first-hand presentation of the details. More information and a link to the webpage for registration is on the IRS website here.

For organizations that qualify—and their employees—this feature of the health care reform bill can be an immediate benefit.

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