by Tanya Varanelli

Finding and securing the best nonprofit talent is at its heart a marketing effort. Organizations often begin recruiting for a new role by thinking about what type of candidates will apply. First, we should consider that a strong position description is key to attracting quality candidates.

Take a step back and make sure the organization is putting its best face forward to attract the best talent. To do this, it’s important to look closely at the position description. Whether it’s a new role or a replacement hire, you want to carefully think about the scope of the role and the qualifications and capabilities the successful candidate will have.

We recommend including the following key elements about the organization, the position and information about the hiring process in your position description:

About the Organization

  • Organization OverviewClearly share the mission, values and brief history of the organization.  Nonprofit organizations require everyone on the team to promote the mission to the community, and this introduction can help determine alignment of the mission and values.
  • Workplace CultureThis is a great way to communicate the on-the-job culture to prospective candidates. It should provide a sense of what the work environment is like and what makes it special.
  • Strategic Plan An overview of the organization’s strategic vision and goals should be transparent to help the candidates understand how this role has the opportunity to make an impact reaching these goals.

About the Position

  • Position SummaryBefore getting into the detailed responsibilities of the role, make sure it can be summarized clearly in a few sentences.
  • Key ResponsibilitiesCandidates should understand the expectations of the role. Sometimes it is helpful to bullet related tasks under each area of responsibly or think about allotting a time percentage to each function of the role. Make sure to also clearly define team management or budgetary responsibility.
  • Required Qualifications and CompetenciesThink about which responsibilities and skills are needed to be successful in the role and support the mission; also which skills are considered “must-haves” or preferred but not critical. It is important to consider that many skills learned in the for-profit sector can transition well to nonprofit organizations. Use language that will attract a diverse set of candidates to apply for the role.

Other Essential Information

  • Important LogisticsBe sure that the description includes a clear title for the position, the organization’s website link, and information clarifying work status (full-time, part-time or contract), the reporting relationship and working location (i.e. remote or office-based).
  • Application ProcessInterested candidates should be given clear directions to submit an application, express interest or provide referrals from their network.
  • EEO StatementIncluding the statement demonstrates your commitment to complying with EEOC law and creating an inclusive environment. Your legal counsel will be able to help determine the necessary compliance language.

There are also a few topics you may want to consider internally before publishing a position description:

  • Discuss if you want to publicize the salary range
  • Limit jargon for an external audience
  • Carefully review language and tone to be inclusive and free of unconscious bias

It is critical that there is alignment among the organization’s leadership about how the addition of this new hire will impact workflow and culture. Clearly define the reporting relationships for the role and how this person will collaborate with other team members to help advance the mission of the organization. Make sure everyone is on the same page and plan to revisit the position description regularly as the organization evolves. Finally, be realistic! We all want to find that perfect unicorn, but we should remain open that the best candidate for the role will reveal themselves through the recruitment process.

Want to learn more about crafting insightful and targeted position descriptions? Are you considering a search and need help developing a rigorous process to assess candidates? Reach out and let’s talk:

Image: Katarzyna Białasiewicz


Tanya Varanelli is Project Manager at Next Stage with a background in nonprofit recruitment and search operations. She is focused on sourcing talented leaders for Charlotte’s thriving nonprofit community. Tanya spent several years working for Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm serving nonprofits, where she recently served as Director of Research and Special Projects. Prior to joining Koya, Tanya was Associate Director of Recruitment at The Broad Center, where she helped recruit and train executive leadership talent to become urban school district leaders.  Tanya’s previous recruiting experience includes positions with DIRECTV, and Bain & Company. Tanya is a member of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and volunteers with nonprofits focused on healthcare advocacy and environmental issues. Tanya holds a B.A. in Human Development/Organizational Studies and Human Resources Management from Boston College.