30 Ways to Save Your Non Profit Money on Human Resources

It’s no secret that non-profits often run on lean budgets and need to make their money stretch as far as possible, especially so that as much of their money as possible is directed toward program expenses. So, let’s talk about ways to make sure you have solid and compliant human resource management while also making the money you’re stewarding work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

  1. Consider using a payroll company to handle payroll, benefit and employment related tax filings. Make sure that you ask about their experience with working as a co-employer (often the way many payroll companies contract with businesses) with non-profits. Especially as them about their knowledge of the requirements or exemptions of your non-profit with regard to new hire reporting (usually state level), filing 940s and 941s, whether they can submit quarterly reports to you on the amounts of tax paid. You may still need to report the tax or unemployment benefits or workers compensation insurance to your state agencies – be sure to ask what the payroll company can handle and what your organization will need to take care of.
  2. Up-to-date Job descriptions. Consider reviewing job descriptions each year to ensure that they comply with current law, and industry practice.
  3. Do you have an Employee Handbook? Compiling and revising an Employee Handbook for your organization should be considered a fundamental priority – if you are a board member, ask to see this if you haven’t already.
  4. Utilize social media and your donor network (including the board) to recruit new staff. While a newspaper ad might be helpful, it may not get you the candidates you need. So, too, paying to advertise on a aggregated job seeker site might not be the best use of money for your organization.
  5. Develop personnel policy for your employees working remotely. Not only does this save your staff transportation expenses, it can save your organization in utilities, and equipment (you may not need a desk for everyone). Some employees may find that they are able to focus on complex tasks better away from the office (in a way that means their time is better spent working in a different location – this is especially true if your office has many people coming and going each day). Consider also the value of keeping employees who may need to move (including Military Spouses) because of the saved recruitment and training costs.
  6. Try Job Sharing. Sometimes it can be hard to find one person to be able to do all of the varied tasks of a particular position (so much so that it is really more than one job smushed together) – In a small organization, it may be helpful to the culture and dynamic to have a couple of extra people in the mix, for energy if nothing else. This may work well if you are splitting a position that requires varied hours. Do note, however, that if you provide benefits, it could cost you more money because you will have two people on the payroll rather than one. On the other hand, if you consider them both part-time employees, you may not need to provide benefits. Remember that more than 6 FTE employees employed in an organization that receives Federal Funding is a trigger for having to provide all employees with health insurance and other benefits.
  7. Experience is Valuable. While working for a non-profit often requires having lots of energy, having staff with life experience around can be incredibly valuable for the culture and health of your non profit organization. Perspective definitely helps when the going gets tough. You might also find that retirees with specialist knowledge are willing to work on a project basis or would like only part-time or casual work. They often don’t expect benefits because they may already have them from another source.
  8. Match your staffing needs to your strategic plan. The strategic plan should guide staffing, not the other way around. Of course, this assumes that you have a strategic plan!
  9. Be sure to review your Organizational chart once every six months. Your organizational chart should reflect the reality of staffing at all times – it is worth including this step as part of new hire or exit interview workflow.
  10. Develop a New Employee Orientation program. A new employee orientation program should include training in the new job (based on the job description), review of company policies and culture, and a welcome! The time this orientation takes will come back 10 fold when you reap the benefits of clear messaging around expectations, responsibility and organizational culture. Once developed be sure to review once every 12 months.
  11. Pre-Employment Checks Should NOT be Optional.
  12. Human Resource Statistics can serve multiple purposes. If you have Federal funding, periodically analyze your “impact ratio of hires to applicants by EEO category” in order to avoid potential litigation. Statistics including cost per hour, clients served, and disproportionality data can help when submitting grant applications.
  13. Establish a variable pay schedule based on merit. Job performance should be rewarded. Finances are one of the challenges non-profit organizations face, but there is no excuse for treating staff like they are disposable. Make sure you are recruiting quality staff and paying them sufficiently. Try to get creative around non-cash perks – this could include rostered days off, or the ability to work from home after a period of great performance or based on the project.
  14. Perform a benefits needs analysis with your employees. Knowing what benefits are needed and wanted can help with funding and prioritization.
  15. Perform an annual Training needs assessment with your managers. What training is required by contracts, grants or industry affiliations? Are you meeting those standards? How can your organizations’ training dollars be spent in the most efficient and effective way possible?
  16. Get creative to meet training needs with quality training. Make use of industry association training benefits (including webinars). Encourage volunteers to report training completed for their jobs – this may be able to be included in reports to funders. Look to your staff and their training and knowledge to help meet some training needs, particularly of volunteers.
  17. Work with other non-profits to trade training that could be beneficial to each of your organizations. Bear in mind any licensing that you may have agreed to. This works especially well when you have two human services organizations who have complementary but not overlapping clients.
  18. Review all contracts carefully and make a checklist of all policies required to be in place. Use the checklist as a basis for ensuring compliance and helping with prioritization of tasks in policy development and revision. Contracts (especially with the Federal government) sometimes also require certain policies posted.
  19. Write or revise Employee Grievance policy & procedure. In addition to the general grievance policy and procedure, make sure there is a clear written grievance policy and procedure for employees.
  20. Review the government regulations that govern your work (if applicable) carefully. Make sure your policies reinforce those regulations and point to them for further information and clarification.
  21. Policies and Procedures can be valuable to Non profit organizations. It is very important that the non profit board of directors be heavily involved in the approval process for all policies and procedures. These should be developed by managers, and led by the CEO or Executive Director of the Organization – they have to be practically relevant and realistic otherwise they risk being useless.
  22. Employee Vacation Policy. Consider an employee vacation policy that is a “use it or lose it” policy.
  23. Discipline and Discharge Policies. Workable and realistic discipline and discharge policies are essential. A statement of voluntary separation should be signed by those who quit or resign. The latter is especially helpful in cases where a former employee files for unemployment after resigning claiming they were fired. Do remember that some voluntary resignations in some US states do allow for unemployment eligibility (one being military spouses who leave their job pursuant to military permanent change of station orders).
  24. Document Retention and Destruction Policy.
  25. Employee Assistance Program. An Employee assistance program may be available to the employees of your non profit as a benefit of an industry association membership or affiliation. It may also be available as a consequence of a state or federal services contract. EAPs can be of use for employee counseling, drug and alcohol abuse support programs and other situations when an employee may need additional support.
  26. Occupational Health and Safety Policies and Procedures. Well written and realistically written safety rules can reduce worker’s compensation costs and prevent accidents.
  27. Centralize Form creation and revision. Keep a master file of all forms in use and the revision number that is currently in use. Set a review schedule for forms and ask managers to feedback about changes needed to make forms as cost effective and useful as possible.
  28. Steady as she goes with new employees. Consider adding new staff on a contract or temporary basis to make sure it will work out and to make sure the workload is as estimated.
  29. Audit Computer needs and Costs. An outside consultant may be particularly useful when it comes to computer and IT infrastructure. Set a schedule to review computer needs, software update and upgrade needs. Focus on the realistic needs of your organization. This may require some creativity. The reality is that computer security and data security are essential for a healthy non profit and essential to protecting the information of clients and employees.
  30. Remember that Human Resources is about managing people, real human people. Compassion is an important ingredient.

Speaker. Reader. Thinker. Writer. Traveler. Advocate

Anna Blanch Rabe, founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, has been working with Social Enterprises, socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations since 2006 to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community- capacity, attract talent, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.

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