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How to Build a Diverse Talent Pipeline for Your Nonprofit Team


Building a team of diverse backgrounds and perspectives can lead to better decision-making, greater innovation, and increased engagement in the workplace. If this is true, then why are our workplaces so white?

It will probably not come as a surprise that most nonprofit leaders are white. Over 80% of nonprofits are white-led. What you may not know is that the solution to a lack of diversity starts in the very beginning of your recruiting cycle—with your talent pool or candidate pipeline.

Studies show that when there is only one woman or minority candidate in a pool of four finalists, their odds of being hired are statistically zero! According to the Harvard Business Review, if a finalist candidate pool of four has two women or minority candidates, the likelihood of their being hired increases to 50%. To build a diverse team, it is integral to start with a diverse candidate pool.

Read on for steps you can take before, during, and after a search or hiring cycle to build a diverse pipeline of candidates.

BEFORE: Start with the basics.

It is important to acknowledge that building a diverse team will take time. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution—it just takes a lot of hard work! Here are some of the building blocks of diversity-oriented hiring practices:

Define what “diversity, equity, and inclusion” mean to your organization.

Take the time to sit down and work this out. Consider crafting a commitment to DEI as an organization and take stock of the current demographics of your staff. This will help you identify the gaps and where you want to go.

Create transparency around compensation.

Commit to pay your employees for the work their positions entail as opposed to basing compensation on someone’s salary history. As women and people of color are largely underpaid compared to white males, this helps ensure equity and fairness in pay.

Consider transferrable skills.

This will help you build a robust picture of where your talent could come from and discover talent in unexpected places where there may be more diversity to draw from.

Build a diverse search committee.

Because of our own inherent biases and our proclivity to be drawn to people who look and act like us, it is important to assemble a diverse search committee that can provide varied feedback and insight during the hiring process.

DURING: Make equitable hiring decisions.

Once you establish some parameters, you can begin to look at the decisions you make during your hiring process, especially as you are interviewing candidates.

Look beyond “prestige” organizations and really assess accomplishments.

While it is incredibly impressive when someone graduates from a prestigious university, don’t let that detract from another candidate’s accomplishments. Credentials alone do not necessarily make someone the best fit for a role.

Craft interview questions based on the job description and be consistent.

Ask each candidate the same questions. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t always! We practice this to be equitable and focused in our interviewing, giving every candidate the same opportunity to answer the same questions.

Use scorecards to “grade” responses by content area—and ensure that scorecards align with interview questions.

This is a method of assessing candidates’ qualifications as well as pre-determining what qualities are most important for a placement to possess. Using scorecards gives you a structured way of comparing candidates’ experience.

Request interviewers provide private, individualized, written feedback on candidates before debriefing as a group.

This allows interviewers the opportunity to process their own opinions before being swayed by any other member of the group.

AFTER: Keep paying attention.

Just because you hire someone, that doesn’t mean the work is done. You can prepare for the next hiring process by continuing to pay attention to the pipeline that you created. In addition, focus on retention and development.

Consider that sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time.

Be sure to keep in touch with candidates who were not the exact right fit now, but who could be excellent hires in the future.

Intentionally network with people who do not look like you, especially in affinity groups.

This will connect you to a more diverse and varied network of people, and you can engage with them to refer future candidates. Furthermore, it will push you out of your comfort zone and give you an opportunity to grow in relationships with those who are different than you.

Embed recruiting, networking, and diversity into your business practice and culture.

Remember that building a talent pipeline is not just the job of HR or recruiters. Your future talent is determined by everyone at your organization. Every employee has their own network that could extend your diverse pipeline even further for future opportunities.

It has always been important to prioritize diversity in hiring. However, with the turbulent events of last year and the stark systemic injustice highlighted by the pandemic, it is even more urgent to build diverse talent pools. We invite you to join us in this mission as we seek to meet it ourselves.

If you’d like to dive a bit deeper, watch our webinar on equity in hiring.

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Angèle Bubna
About Angèle Bubna Angèle brings a dynamic spirit and relational connectedness to every search. She contributes to the Executive Search team’s work through executing targeted research, networking and sourcing, and...
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