For nonprofits, having an optimized HR approach is easier said than done, as nonprofits usually have more unique needs than for-profit organizations. They must balance several factors to make the best decisions for their organizations, from employment law to tight budgets to their missions and values. This is why many organizations look to nonprofit human resources consultants for guidance.
However, hiring and working with a human resources consultant can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to get started:
- Get to Know Us: Astron Solutions’ Nonprofit HR Consultants
- The Nonprofit HR Consultant Hiring Process, Explained
- 5 Tips for Working With a Nonprofit HR Consultant
The great thing about human resources consulting is that it strengthens your nonprofit from the inside out. With a strong internal team, you can achieve long-term, sustainable success for your cause!
Get to Know Us: Astron Solutions’ Nonprofit Human Resources Consultants
At Astron Solutions, we’ve been providing HR consulting services and talent management solutions to small and mid-sized organizations for over 25 years. We understand nonprofits and their needs, and we’re committed to helping you recruit, engage, and retain top talent while also reducing the time, money, and effort required to manage HR.
We offer a variety of services for nonprofits, including:
- Total rewards compensation consulting
- Performance management assistance
- Career progression program creation
- Custom survey development and administration
- And more!
When you work with Astron Solutions, you can rest assured that you’re getting effective solutions tailored to your team’s needs at a reasonable cost. And, you’ll have our support every step of your HR development journey.
Nonprofit HR Consulting: The Essentials
Before you can dive into hiring and working with a consultant, you should understand the basics of nonprofit HR consulting. To help, we’ll walk through a few frequently asked questions about nonprofit HR.
What does HR do in a nonprofit?
It’s a common misconception that HR is optional or even unnecessary for nonprofits. However, any organization that employs people (or hires independent contractors) must comply with applicable employment and tax laws.
Nonprofit HR encompasses many of the same areas that for-profit HR does, including:
- Employee recruitment and retention
- Employee training and development
- Compensation and benefits management
- Legal compliance
Prioritizing HR management tasks sets your nonprofit up to be an effective employer by offering a positive employment experience to staff members. This, in turn, strengthens your organization and its work, empowering you to do more for your beneficiaries and community!
What is a nonprofit human resources consultant?
A nonprofit HR consultant is an expert who provides guidance, advice, and solutions to nonprofits seeking HR support.
Every consultant or consulting firm will typically specialize in a different aspect of HR. For example, one consultant might focus on helping organizations find talented executive leaders. Another might be dedicated to helping your organization iron out its compensation strategy. This is why, as you prepare to hire a consultant, it’s important to consider your organization’s unique HR needs and compare those needs against your consulting options.
What do HR consultants charge?
HR consulting will require an investment upfront, but the return on that investment will be significant as you strengthen your workplace and your general operations.
There are a few different ways a consulting firm might frame its pricing. Some consultants charge by the hour, the day (or half-day), or by the project. Others require a retainer, especially when offering long-term support.
As you move through the consultant hiring process, ask your top candidates about their pricing and be upfront about your budget.
Common Reasons for Working with a Nonprofit HR Consultant
There are plenty of reasons why a nonprofit organization might decide to seek outside HR guidance. Here are the most common reasons:
- The organization is going through a transitional period. Times of quick growth or leadership changes are great opportunities for organizations to make any important changes or updates to their HR structures. A consultant can help aid in a smooth transition to updated policies and processes.
- The nonprofit is experiencing retention or recruitment issues. HR often represents the first line of defense for combatting turnover and developing stronger, more holistic compensation strategies. A consultant will pinpoint the crux of your issues and help you develop policies to resolve them.
- The organization needs to build its first set of HR processes. As mission-driven organizations with fairly tight budgets, growing nonprofits often postpone developing concrete HR policies, processes, and departments until they’ve been up and running for a while. A consultant is especially helpful for guiding you through the process for the first time if none of your employees are familiar with HR.
- Outside forces are affecting the nonprofit’s internal operations and causing uncertainty over next steps. There will always be situations and events that arise which are outside of an organization’s control. Revisiting and improving your HR strategy is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated during times of instability.
The exact reason an organization decides to hire a nonprofit human resources consultant will vary. However, all of the situations listed above have one thing in common: the nonprofits want or need more stable foundations on which to grow.
Well-developed and properly scaled HR programs will strengthen your organization’s ability to grow sustainably. An outside expert is in the best position to objectively determine which strategies will be most effective in the long run.
Services That Nonprofit HR Consultants Offer
If you’ve never worked with a consultant before or if you’re trying to build out your organization’s first HR policies, it’s challenging to know what to look for without a general understanding of the field. For some additional context, let’s cover the types of services that nonprofit HR consultants typically provide:
- Evaluating or auditing existing HR structures and policies
- Retention-focused strategy development to help you retain top talent
- General compensation consulting and role-specific strategy development
- Incentive and recognition program development to encourage employee engagement
- Employee communication support, including survey design and administration
- Performance management guidance or training and management software support
- Work-from-home program guidelines and support
- HR support during economic and social challenges
Remember, a human resources consultant is not a replacement or filler for a dedicated, in-house HR team. Many consultants don’t offer the types of services that these teams would perform, like payroll administration. However, consultants are strong partners for developing and training an HR team for your organization.
The Nonprofit HR Consultant Hiring Process, Explained
Now that you know what a nonprofit human resources consultant does, you’re likely eager to kickstart the process of partnering with your own consultant. We’ll help you prepare to hire the best possible consultant by walking through the basic hiring steps you’ll need to follow.
1. Examine your goals and needs.
Think about why you need an HR consultant and what you want to accomplish through your partnership. Chances are your reasons will fit into one of the situations listed above, but your exact goals may differ.
Clearly defining your goals and needs (or at least having a clear sense of what you need to accomplish) will go a long way to helping you find the perfect partner and streamlining their job later on.
2. Meet with your nonprofit’s board and outline guidelines.
Ensure your leadership is on the same page as the rest of your team. Discuss your plan with all board members to ensure everyone understands the need to hire a consultant and your goals for working with one. This way, there’s no confusion, time wasted, or future pushback.
When you meet with your board members, it’s also a good time to outline key guidelines for your HR consultant search. These should include a general budget, target start date for services, and general timeframe for the entire engagement. With these guidelines laid out, you can approach your initial candidate research more intentionally.
3. Build a hiring team.
Getting multiple perspectives on potential HR consultants will help you find the best fit. Many organizations create hiring teams or committees to focus more directly on this. Hiring teams are also useful for delegating tasks, like who should research candidates and who should review proposals.
Your team should consist of leaders in your organization plus staff members who will work directly with the consultant, such as existing HR staff. If your consultant is helping build your organization’s first HR department, the staff member who will lead future HR tasks should be included.
4. Conduct research.
Start searching online for top nonprofit consultants. There are plenty of useful resources out there that explain top consultants and their specialties (like our guide to compensation consultants). Most HR consultants don’t specialize in working with nonprofits, so determine in advance if you want a partner with experience primarily in the nonprofit sector.
Ready to start your research now?
Don’t forget to reach out to your colleagues and contacts in other organizations, too. If you know another organization that has worked with a nonprofit HR consultant, ask them about their experience. They’ll most likely have recommendations and insights to share.
5. Draft an RFP.
With your hiring team, work on drafting a request for proposal (RFP) for a human resources consultant. An RFP communicates your organization’s HR needs and goals. This way, you can ask each HR consultant candidate for their proposal in an easy-to-digest and fully standardized format.
Your RFP will depend on your organization’s unique situation, but there are a few common points that are crucial to include. To yield the best results, consider the following elements:
RFP Template for Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant
- Nonprofit Overview: A description of your organization, including your history, mission, and audience
- Scope of Services: A description of your HR needs, including specific services you’re looking for and any additional context for your needs
- Guidelines: The guidelines that you and your nonprofit board laid out earlier in the process, including budget and timeline
- Expected Outcomes: Your general goals and a list of concrete deliverables
- Additional Questions and Requests: Any other information you want from the consultant to help decide if they’re the right fit for your nonprofit
Your RFP is a concise representation of your HR needs for all of your consultant candidates. The more focused and direct your RFP is, the better and more useful your proposals will be.
6. Reach out to your top candidates.
Once you and your team have narrowed down a shortlist of candidates, reach out to the top two or three. Start by:
- Introducing your organization
- Requesting more information on the consultant’s services
After this, if you’re still interested in a candidate, send the RFP that you’ve already written. Once the consultants complete and present their proposals, you can narrow down your choices further. Don’t be afraid to examine consultants’ proposals with a critical eye and ask them to adjust their proposals to better meet your needs.
This is also the point in the process at which you’ll request references from each consultant to get a feel for their track record of success.
Besides considering your candidates’ proposals and proposals, determine how well they’ll fit into your organization’s working culture by examining their characteristics, such as:
- Experience working on projects similar to your own, and with nonprofits similar to your own, ideally in terms of both mission and size: This helps ensure that the consultant fully understands your particular circumstance and unique pressures.
- Their ability to describe their methods or general approach: As with practically any important project or initiative, a flexible and individualized approach is always more effective than a one-size-fits-all solution.
- Strong communication efforts: This includes quick responses to your questions and thorough explanations of key concepts.
- Respect for your organization’s work and vision: The right consultant will be willing to workshop the ideas they bring to the table so that they align with your specific needs, goals, and vision. You don’t want a “my way or the highway” consultant as a partner!
After screening for these key characteristics, check the consultant’s references. This is a great way to get a sense of how they work. Make sure that the consultant’s work has had a lasting impact on the performance of their previous clients’ HR programs.
7. Make your pick.
Once you’ve reviewed the proposals your organization received and considered each one’s professional characteristics, it’s time to make your pick. Work with your team to settle on your favorite candidate, then notify them of your decision. As a courtesy, make sure to let the other firms you were considering know that you’ve decided to go with a different candidate. Then, finalize your consultant’s proposed plan, agree on logistics like pay and length of the engagement, and sign a contract.
5 Tips for Working With a Nonprofit HR Consultant
To help you get the most value out of working with a nonprofit HR consultant, here are some best practices to apply:
- Take a partnership approach. Ensure your consultants take the time to get to know your organization and genuinely understand your mission and audience. This way, they have all the context they need to finalize their HR strategy recommendations.
- Provide your consultant with all necessary information and materials. To fully understand your needs and create useful solutions, your consultant will need access to materials like your total compensation statements, job descriptions, employee census, and more. Promptly provide the information they need and make yourself available to answer questions.
- Understand all changes. Members of your staff might not be familiar with the full scope of nonprofit HR and its responsibilities, so communicate new developments across your organization.
- Ask for documentation. Make sure you have everything you need to ensure long-term success before your engagement with the consultant officially ends. Having documentation and training materials from the HR consultant will help you communicate new processes and will act as resources if you encounter any issues.
- Remember that you know your nonprofit best. While you should remain open-minded about your consultant’s guidance and suggestions, you’re the one who knows your organization and team best. Remember that you have the power to make the final call on different aspects of your HR management tasks.
Partnering with a nonprofit human resources consultant can do great things for your organization, but make sure that your nonprofit is ready to make the most of the engagement. This way, you avoid any confusion or wasted time. Following the best practices above will keep you on the right track and ensure success for your nonprofit HR strategies.
HR is a critical part of every successful organization’s foundation. With the unique pressures of the nonprofit sector, however, your organization needs a robust strategy.
Hiring an experienced nonprofit HR consultant is a game-changer for organizations ready to improve their HR processes. Take your time conducting your research, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect partner!
Want to keep exploring the world of HR? Check out additional resources:
- Nonprofit Human Resources Demystified: Your Ultimate Guide. Learn the ins and outs of nonprofit HR and why it matters for your internal team and the communities you serve.
- Employee Compensation: Full Guide & 6 Strategy-Refining Tips. Employee compensation is a complex part of nonprofit HR. Check out this guide to learn all about employee compensation and how to improve your strategy.
- Pay Transparency: What It is & How to Navigate New Laws. Pay transparency laws are becoming more ubiquitous—is your organization prepared to comply with them? Learn everything you need to know in this guide.