In an earlier piece, we introduced the notion of an organizational life cycle—developmental stages that a nonprofit can pass through from start-up to mature institution. We began the series by looking at the changing role of the Executive Director throughout the life cycle; here we’ll talk about the ways in which staffing needs and characteristics morph along the way, as well as how an organization can support a growing staff.
A start-up nonprofit may not have a single paid employee. But in most cases, it eventually makes sense to hire a dedicated employee to deal with the day to day and free board members to focus more on the big picture of governance. As the staff expands, it’s important that the Executive Director has the leeway to make hiring decisions, that they are informed about best practice, and that the organization has basic human resource structures in place. During this stage, employees may still wear many hats and be responsible for activities across the organization. In this case, professional development will consist of broad introductions to a variety of topics.
As the staffing needs of an adolescent organization continue to grow, we should see the development of a formal on-boarding program and a standardized performance-assessment system. An adolescent organization may also perform an organizational assessment to ensure (among other things) that staffing is sufficient and hours are appropriately allocated. Typically, we would also see a more complex organizational structure and an increasing number of employees taking on managerial duties. This expanded structure creates a need for leadership and management training within the ranks.
A mature organization will further refine its human resource management. As we discussed last week, assessing staff performance and supporting staff development should always be a priority. At this stage, employees will need more specialized skills and in-depth training relevant to their specific roles. In the context of the organizational life cycle, we can see the need to tailor an approach to staff development according to the needs of the organization. Doing so can be an important way to avoid stagnation within an organization and promote effective growth.
CNE provides organizational assessments to help you locate your nonprofit within the life cycle and identify strengths and areas for growth. CNE’s Management Academy and Emerging Leaders Circle offer opportunities to grow internal candidates for management and leadership roles within your organization, as well as a shorter trainings on a wide variety of topics to help you grow your staff throughout the life cycle of your organization.