Author: Kristina Preston, Senior Consultant, TPP Education & Training,  at TPP Recruitment, the charity recruitment specialists.

Sourcing candidates from outside the sector

The big story in the membership sector over the last few years has been the rise of digital and how organisations have had to evolve to meet their members’ changing expectations. Members want instant access to resources and training in exchange for their fees and the most successful membership organisations are those that can continue to update and innovate; making the transition to e-learning, developing digital products and making all their services accessible online.

This has impacted on recruitment in the membership sector, as many organisations bring in new employees with the right skills to help lead this shift towards digital. Membership is a relatively niche sector, which means the pool of candidates from the sector with the right kind of experience is small. This means that membership organisations may have to look to other sectors to find the right candidate, with the charity sector being the obvious place to start. There are parallels between many types of not-for-profit organisation, such as a shared office culture or cause, but some areas tend to have candidates with more transferrable skills than others.

Marketing and communications are obviously crucial in making the most of the opportunities presented by the digital revolution to keep members engaged and informed. Marcomms hard skills are usually entirely transferable between sectors, but many membership organisations feel that candidates from outside the sector just don’t ‘get’ the ‘right way’ to talk to their members.

Member/supporter care roles are probably those most easily filled by candidates from the charity sector. The skills required to use CRM databases and deal with queries are virtually identical.

Business Development roles continue to increase, as organisations concentrate on improving and broadening their products. While salary/bonus and cultural differences mean that bringing in candidates from the commercial sector is difficult, looking at those from the charity and commercial sector can pay off as they can offer new perspectives and ways of working.

Streamlining your recruitment process
Another recruitment challenge facing some membership organisations is that they often have lengthy and complex recruitment processes more suited to an academic or health institution than a modern not for profit organisation.

Thorough processes are a risk-averse approach to recruitment, but in a candidate-short market, making jobseekers jump through hoops can lead to losing them to faster, more agile competitors.

Over complex and repetitive application forms are a particular bugbear for candidates, and we often get feedback on how off-putting they are. If you use them, now is the time to consider a thorough overhaul. You can find TPP’s advice on how to review your application form here.

If you do decide to streamline your recruitment process, it is also worth looking at how you can improve internal communications. Different departments within membership organisations can be quite segregated, with their own agendas, and when more than one department is involved in the recruitment process, this silo effect can lead to delays and difficulties. Make it clear which team is responsible for maintaining momentum during recruitment, and which has the final say in any decisions.

Consider your employer branding

Most membership organisations don’t really consider their employer branding, which again can lead to them missing out on the best candidates. Employer branding simply means your organisation’s reputation as an employer and how you present yourself as a great place to work for the people you want to attract. The harder it is to find candidates for your roles, the more important employer branding becomes.

Unlike charities, membership organisations don’t always have a clear and easily-communicated mission, so it’s important to spend some time thinking about the reasons a candidate would want to work for you. Consider how best to convey your organisation’s vision and purpose, how that impacts on the wider community and how the role you are recruiting for contributes towards it.

When you start recruiting, you also need to very clear about the key selling points of the role and what makes this job and your organisation stand out. For example, is the organisation in an exciting period of chance, or situated in a particularly attractive location? Does the job have lots of potential for career development, or opportunities to expand the role?

We’ve found that flexible working opportunities are particularly sought after, and not as widely offered in the membership sector as they are in traditional charities. If you can offer flexibility around hours or location, this can be an excellent opportunity to make your role really stand out from the competition.

Read more about managing your employer brand here.

Take expert advice

Most membership organisations are not large enough to have dedicated internal recruitment staff, which means recruitment is left to those who already have a day job. It can be difficult to know how your organisation compares against others, and exactly what you need to offer to attract the right calibre of candidate. And if you’re not successful in your recruitment process, you’ll need to start the whole thing again from scratch.

Making use of a specialist partner like TPP Recruitment will save you valuable time and significantly increase your chances of successfully filling the role. TPP specialise in recruiting to not for profit organisations like yours and we have a long track record of successfully filling roles in membership organisations.

Contact Natalie: [email protected]

TPP Recruitment supply award-winning recruitment services to not for profit organisations.At TPP, we appreciate that every new member of staff is a significant investment for a non-profit organisation. All of our consultants see every applicant as an individual and we have found thousands of candidates their ideal job. We also support the sector through a wide variety of free services. You can visit our website for more information and advice, or contact us on or [email protected]