Tag Archives: nonprofit human resources

by Floyd Rumohr

Employee Performance Reviews Image #2Performance reviews are a challenge for most nonprofit leaders and managers. Traditional approaches such as skills-based competency evaluations can be time-consuming and not particularly effective according to some compelling research from the for-profit sector.

Jena McGregor of The Washington Post has been writing some interesting pieces about for-profit leadership in general and human resources in particular. One of her most recent is based on a Harvard Business Review report about 360-degree and laborious, once-a-year evaluations. The HBR reported that Deloitte has simplified the process for 10 per cent of its workforce using the following four statements:

  1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.
  2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.
  3. This person is at risk for low performance.
  4. This person is ready for promotion today.

Deloitte uses a 1-5 rating scale for the first two statements and a simple “yes” or “no” response for the last two. Managers respond to the above four points at the end of every project or at the end of every quarter for longer term activities. Time will tell if this will take off at other companies, and what implications, if any, the framework has for nonprofits.

Here’s what I like about it:

  1. It saves time and could encourage more frequent, formative touch points with direct reports.
  2. It captures low-performance risk and could trigger a deeper dive into professional development needs.
  3. Employee performance is reviewed in the context of organizational/programmatic goals.
  4. The statements are deceptively simple. Just like the Charting Impact framework for organizations developed by BBB Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar USA and Independent Sector, the statements will encourage discussion and inquiry regardless of where a particular employee falls on the scale.

Here’s what I don’t like:

  1. The emphasis on extrinsic rewards like bonuses and compensation. Nonprofit team members might be motivated by other factors like mission or culture and not respond to incentives used successfully in for-profit contexts.
  2. The majority of nonprofits have limited upward mobility options because of their size. Statement #4 could mean that the only way “up” is out.

What do you think? How does your organization conduct performance reviews? What role does the process play in achieving your mission? If a skill learned today could be obsolete tomorrow, then what should the basis be for employee performance at your nonprofit?

Get the Employee Assessment Instrument in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 5.1. Although Deloitte uses a 1-5 scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree,” we recommend a 1-4 scale to discourage responders from gravitating toward the middle.


References and recommended reading:

— “What if you could replace performance evaluations with four simple questions?” by Jena McGregor, The Washington Post, March 17, 2015:

— “Reinventing Performance Management” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Harvard Business Review, April 2015. Accessed online March 17, 2015:

Human resource management and strategic planning topics appearing in the Rumohr and Clarke Nonprofit Blog are listed below — all in one place so you can easily find the information when you need it. The topics have also been compiled into two free guides.

Title 2.3 in the Video and Template Library.

Title 2.3 in the Video and Template Library.

Strategic Planning

1.  What Is Strategic Planning?
2.  Vision and Mission
2.a. Magicians and Visionaries: A Lesson in Clarity *
3.  Core Values
4.  Goals and Objectives
5.  Environmental Factors Affecting Nonprofits
6.  Competitive Advantage
7.  Logic: Ins and Outs of Enterprising Nonprofits
8.  Evaluation: Bridging Inputs With Impact
9.  Alliances and Partners
9. a. Is it Time to Realign? *
10.  Strat Plan’s Relationship to Development and Fundraising
11.  Tips for Creating Your Plan
12.  Get the Free Guide! *

Titles 3.10 and 4.4 in the Video and Template Library.

Titles 3.10 and 4.4 in the Video and Template Library.

Human Resource Management

1.  Introduction
2.  Hiring Process Stages
3.  Purpose of Interviews
4.  The Hiring Manager
5.  High Inquiry Interview Questions
6.  Focusing Questions
7.  Multiple Perspectives in Hiring
8.  Evaluating Interview Candidate Responses
9.  Onboarding
9.a.  Employee Performance Review *
10.   Get the Free Guide! *

* This topic is not included in the Guide.

TV GraphicPrefer to watch a video? Many of the HR topics above are also available in the Video and Template Library. Click here to go there.

Hiring and Onboard Guide SnapshotHuman resource management topics of the Rumohr and Clarke Nonprofit blog have been compiled into the free booklet, Hiring and Onboarding for Small Nonprofits and Emerging Leaders, available for download at the Video and Template Library.

The sixteen page guide is ideal for in-service nonprofit professionals, entrepreneurial start-up founders, or anyone with limited experience in hiring and onboarding.

This free online resource furthers Rumohr and Clarke’s mission to strengthen small nonprofits and emerging leaders through comprehensive consulting services, coaching, and online content.

Post your comments, questions, and discussions on the blog!

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the Multiple Perspectives video. Select title 3.6 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

An empty position often leaves small nonprofits and emerging leaders thinking I need to fill this position now!

From that vantage point, the well-intended nonprofit leader will see many candidates who seem to fit the bill: attractive, confident, professional and immensely qualified on paper. You like them. You really like them.

“It is just at this moment that the biggest hiring mistake is possible,” says Lou Adler, recruiter, author, and CEO of Power Hiring, a consulting company in Southern California. “What typically happens when you like someone is that you tend to go out of your way to reinforce what you like about that person-even if it’s subconsciously. You tend to support your conclusion and don’t look for facts to preclude it.” (SHRM)

A co-dependent hiring storm is created: an open position with urgent functional needs and a pool of likeable candidates. Each circumstance serves to fuel a belief that both are true. As a result, many time-pressured nonprofits administrators enthusiastically jump-in to hire the candidate liked best before thoroughly examining skills, experience, and compatibility with the organization.

Adler recommends training yourself to “wait 30 minutes before drawing any conclusions” in order to become more objective and tame overactive emotions (SHRM). While waiting is a great way to avoid impulsive decision making, nonprofit administrators often have another resource that engenders discipline in the hiring process: board members, staff, and outside consultants.

Multiple perspectives help to avoid common mistakes like hiring a version of any one person doing the hiring or enlisting a candidate because that person is well liked. In addition, they:

  • Build credibility: the degree to which the judgment and conclusions resulting from the process are trusted and believed by others. If only one person is involved in hiring, then it is possible that several like-minded clones could appear and diminish organizational performance over time. In this case, how trustworthy is the hiring process at a nonprofit or within one of its departments?
  • Reduce the effect of personal bias: one person cannot see and hear everything. Multiple people involved in planning and interviewing discourages any one particular bias, either positive or negative, from dominating the decision-making. Biases can sneak up in unforeseen ways and, in the worst cases, be the culprit behind discriminatory practices.
  • Invest stakeholders in the process: staff, board, and others with whom the new hire will work most closely become acquainted before the new staff member’s first day. Relationships invested in each other’s success are one way to build a high-performance team from the get-go.

Different perspectives do not imply that authority for hiring rests with a committee. While the information gathered is more credible than going it alone, every organization will have to determine with whom or what (in the case of a committee) accountability rests.

Next up: evaluating candidate responses.

Watch Multiple Perspectives in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.6.

References and recommended reading:

Avoid the Top Two Hiring Mistakes” by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). December 2002/Reviewed January 2004.

by Floyd Rumohr

Focusing questions in an interview process can help draw out essential information from candidates while effectively using limited time.

During a search for a director of development at a youth services organization in New York City, the interview design consisted of two interviews each with a different focus:

Interview #1

Interview #2

Focus: Skills and Experience

Focus: Working Style and Compatibility

Sample Questions:

  • What tools, if any, do you use for time management and tracking critical tasks?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?  Why?

Sample Questions:

  • What is your personal working style?
  • Would you say you are more of an independent worker or collaborator?


  • Executive Director
  • Consultant


  • Program Director
  • Program Managers (2)

The questions for each interview were focused to elicit appropriate information from each candidate in about an hour and a half. Necessary information was shared in the time allowed for the most part. Pressure can mount if expectations of each interview transcend the time you have or if too many spontaneous questions arise. These kinds of distractions can cause increased stress levels in interviewers who have other job functions and candidates who might cross each other while waiting to be seen. Worse yet, a line of interviewees could form in the waiting area!

Focusing questions also helps to determine how many interviews will be needed. Our case study reflected in the above table consisted of two interviews each with a particular focus.

Reasons behind the various people involved in the process are described next.

Next up: multiple perspectives.

Watch the Focusing Questions video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.5.

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the High Inquiry Questions video. Select title 3.4 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

Questions are here, there, and everywhere on both sides of the interview relationship. How and what kind of questions should we ask during the hiring process?

Teachers are among the most skilled interviewers, even though we might not immediately think of them that way, because they regular ask questions that elicit essential information from students.

But great teachers do more than just draw out information. They get students to think, which is just what a good interview should do. Having been in my fair share of classrooms and interviews, I’ve seen the same effects on students and job candidates from two kinds of questions commonly asked by teachers.   

Broadly speaking, the two kinds of questions have different purposes. High inquiry questions are those that stimulate a wide range of responses that enable:

  • Abstract thought
  • Self-assessment
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Predictions
  • Inferences

Low inquiry questions:

  • Converge toward one correct response
  • Elicit the meaning of a term
  • Reiterate a statement that has already been made
  • Supply an example of something

Low inquiry questions reinforce “correct” answers whereas “high inquiry questions stimulate a broader range of responses and tend to stimulate high levels of thinking” (Hassard). Low inquiry questions can be helpful in the beginning of an interview to help candidates feel comfortable especially when nerves are at their highest such as:

  • How did you hear about this position?
  • What do you know about this organization?

By contract, high inquiry questions get candidates thinking deeply and penetrate the dimensions of experience, skills, organizational compatibility, and can provide indicators of future performance as in:

“What do you think are the critical job challenges for this position and what in your background will help you succeed in meeting these challenges?”

The above is a high inquiry question because it asks the candidate to:

  • Infer what the actual challenges might be.
  • Predict the degree to which he or she will succeed in meeting the challenges.

Such a high inquiry question requires wait-time – a few seconds for the responder to think about the question – and has been shown to increase logical, abstract, and speculative thinking in students (Rowe) (Stahl) (Llewellyn). Again, I’ve seen these same effects on adult candidates during interviews for nonprofit positions. Instead of repeating memorized responses to anticipated questions, for example, candidates thoughtfully responded if appropriate wait-time was provided after each question.

Asking high inquiry questions and providing appropriate wait-time requires patience on the part of interviewers. And even a little courage. Sometimes interviewers can jump in because their own nerves get the best of them or because silence is uncomfortable. Asking a clarifying follow-up question if you see that the candidate is stuck can be helpful. But don’t start talking because you get nervous for them. Silence can be golden and filled with nonverbal information as important as any of the spoken words.

Next up: focusing questions.

Watch High Inquiry Questions in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.4.

References and recommended reading:

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch The Hiring Manager Video. Select title 3.3 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

Most nonprofit directors and managers are responsible for hiring to some degree.

At these times, the hiring hat will become a priority and might even feel like a burden, especially if an unexpected absence occurs and when responsibility for developing staff is hoisted into all of the other duties.

Most for-profit companies figured out a long time ago that it’s a big job. Many of them have dedicated human resource professionals who, among other things, manage the entirety of the hiring and onboarding process. Small and most mid-sized nonprofits don’t have that luxury.

As a result, nonprofit program, executive, development, and artistic directors often find themselves in the lead hiring role. The responsibilities of which are numerous and time-consuming:

  • Arrange for and facilitate all planning meetings.
  • Draft position descriptions.
  • Advertise and list the position.
  • Communicate with candidates and members of the hiring team.
  • Arrange for and prepare all interview materials.
  • Participate in interviews and document the process.
  • Assess candidates.
  • Check references.
  • Recommend finalists to the executive director.
  • Onboard the new hire.

The above responsibilities could be shared among hiring team members to lessen the load on any one particular staff person. Alternatively, an outside consultant could be retained in the role of hiring manager resources permitting. However each task is accomplished and whomever does it, each is as important as any other and time-pressured nonprofit professionals should be cautious of temptations to speed by or eliminate. Prioritizing is essential to the role but omitting any one of the above could result in bigger problems down the road.

Staff, board, or committee meetings can provide opportunities to discuss these essential tasks that build human resource management capacity.

Next up: high inquiry questions.

Watch the The Hiring Manager in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.3.