Go to Top

12 Cross-Sector Talent Recruitment Practices Ripe for Nonprofits

How can social sector organizations recruit the best talent from diverse communities?  How can we hold our own in the “War for Talent”?

In our work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we’ve sought to unearth cross-sector examples of highly successful practices for connecting with networks of diverse talent and for recruiting staff.  We’ve focused on identifying practices that transcend organizational form and type.  We’ve looked for organizations that have demonstrated impact, promoted diversity, offered scalability, and influenced others in their same field of work.

I’d love to highlight three organizations we’ve found that meet these criteria:

What’s so great about these guys?

  • 11% of all seniors and 20% of all African American and Latino seniors at Ivy League institutions applied to TFA in 2009. 92% of TFA teachers returned for second year, compared to national average of 83% for new teachers in low-income communities.
  • The NC Collaborative has recruited 650 students for the program, 41% of whom are non-white and 50-75% of whom continue to work in child welfare field after 5 years, compared to 27% overall for child welfare workers.
  • Google has 1 million applicants per year, equaling approximately 130 applicants per employee.  It’s the #1 place MBAs want to work and is among the top “employers of choice” for graduating minorities.

Cool. And what do they have in common?

In their approach to connecting with networks of talent, all three organizations:

  1. Start early and infiltrate campuses,
  2. Build relationships with influencers and with talent,
  3. Leverage & equip their entire network (including all staff and alumni) to recruit, and
  4. Employ a powerful system to track prospects, applicants, influencers, alumni, etc.


In their approach to attracting talent, all three organizations:

  1. Build strong, selective employer brands,
  2. Demonstrate clear career paths through statistics and alumni stories,
  3. Set expectations for the rigor of their jobs,
  4. Develop sophisticated predictive selection models,
  5. Clear selection process, job description, online applications,
  6. Build relationships with diverse associations/schools,
  7. Provide emotional support for parents of young people,
  8. Offer tuition reimbursement & other financial incentives.


Most nonprofits do not engage in these activities.

Most nonprofits could engage in some or all of these activities without breaking their budget.  Doing this will, at the very least, require investing some staff time. It will mean letting a focus on attracting talent win out over other potential activities.

And it could mean all the difference. It will likely lead to stronger strategies, swifter execution, and greater social impact. We’re excited to be working with Casey to figure out how best to help nonprofits integrate and implement these activities.

, , , , , , , ,

About Alix Wilson

As a director, Alix Wilson engages in strategic partnerships with leadership teams, provides client engagement oversight and supports the overall growth and development of the firm. Alix has extensive experience partnering with and building early stage and rapidly growing entrepreneurial organizations and movements in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. She has deep experience in education, health and poverty both domestically and internationally.See Alix's full bio