Many nonprofit organizations are in need of additional employees to meet the increasing demands of their constituents as federal, state and local governments are continuing to cut social programs to reduce spending. However, this additional need for employees comes at a time when many organizations don’t have the funds to hire additional employees. What options do these organizations have?

  1. Ask current employees to do more.
  2. Engage your volunteers.
  3. Outsource.

Most organizations are already very lean on staff. Asking your current employees to do even more will lead them to eventually burn out and leave. Additionally, asking current employees to perform tasks that may not align with their skill strengths could result in frustration and a lower quality of work.

Engaging your volunteers to fill gaps in your organization can be a very cost effective approach for dealing with the need for additional staffing. However, this method should be approached very strategically. Ensure that you have the volunteer management infrastructure to match the volunteers’ skills and interests with the available tasks. This will lead to better job performance and get the biggest impact for the organization. Using volunteers requires oversight and training which must be provided from current employees. It may also take additional time recruiting volunteers with specialized skills that are needed for certain tasks.

Maybe the best solution to staffing challenges is to outsource. For-profit companies have often outsourced to reduce the costs of employee benefits and other employee-related costs associated with full-time employees. Nonprofit organizations have often been slower to recognize these benefits. There are an abundance of project-based or short-term positions that can be filled through outsourcing, such as the following:

  • Executive positions (executive directors, CFOs)
  • Fundraisers
  • Accountants (payroll processing, payables processing, accounting)
  • Marketing specialists
  • IT professionals (website development, IT security)

Certain positions are more easily outsourced than others. For instance, tasks that require a high-level of understanding of the organization or its constituents are best left to full-time employees. However, accounting and IT specialists can easily be hired for specific projects, or creative projects can be outsourced to marketing specialists, freelance writers or other creative content producers.

Hiring full- or part-time employees may not always be the most cost-effective method for meeting an organization’s need for additional staff. Heaping more work on current employees' backs could result in losing the good employees you have and volunteers cannot always perform some tasks that require more specialized skills. Instead, get creative and consider outsourcing certain tasks to meet the demands of the organization so that the current employees and volunteers can focus on providing the organization’s programs and carrying out its mission.

Originally printed in the Nashville Business Journal.