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Nonprofit Leadership Training Series (video): Episode 3 of 21 - Quality People (part 2 of 3)

Updated: Apr 24

You'll learn WHY it's important to bring on and retain the highest quality staff, board, and volunteers. It also explains the tactics required to hire "A" players that includes observation based hiring techniques, setting expectations, being patient, and how do people fit into your culture.

Intended Audience:

Executives, Board Members, Staff.

About the Series:

Welcome to my Nonprofit Leadership series "How to Build a Gold Standard Nonprofit."

Whether you're a seasoned executive director, or new to the nonprofit world, this video series of 21 videos will give you a set of tools and principles (and good reminders) that will help take your staff, board, organization, to the next level of performance and impact.

The videos are short. There is no mumbo-jumbo theory, just wise advice and practical tactics you can use and apply immediately. It all comes from though lessons I've learned while building eight nonprofits over the last 20 years.

I'll be sending out one video a week. For those who want to binge on the series, or if you missed an episode, you can find them all (and more) on my YouTube Channel -- The Nonprofit Mentor.

Save These Videos

Save these emails in a folder and send them to staff once a week. Or, show one or a two at every board meeting. You can even use them when on-boarding staff, board members, or volunteers. Enjoy and Learn!


PS: You can read more high-quality leadership content in the bestselling books below. (50% off)

by Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat Facilitator”

Hi, and welcome to First Things First! . . .

This is Day 3 of Boot Camp—A Leadership Guide to Building a Gold Standard Nonprofit. On Day 2, I talked about the benefits that high quality people can have on a nonprofit.

Human Endeavor

Remember, the nonprofit world is fundamentally a HUMAN ENDEAVOR. You only have staff, board, and volunteers to run your organization. Without Human Capital, without PEOPLE, you can’t do anything . . .You can’t raise money and you can’t run your programs.

So it all starts with people . . . and the higher the quality, the better your chances of fulfilling your mission efficiently and effectively.

Sounds easy enough, right? But TACTICALLY, what can you do to ensure that you BRING ON AND RETAIN the highest quality staff, volunteers, and board members?

First, you must make a COMMITMENT to bring on and retain high quality people. Make this part of your CULTURE. You want your entire team “resolved” to finding and bringing on competent AND committed people, not matter how long it takes. Find the “A” players. No sloths. No deadweights.

The key to bringing high quality people is to CREATE FILTERS and SET EXPECTATIONS. For Staff, this starts with detailed job descriptions.

Next, develop a thorough OBSERVATION-based interviewing process. For example, when you get to your top two or three candidates, bring them in and put them to work for a couple of days. Watch them in action. See how they perform. And observe how they get along with others. Yes, you should pay them for their time . . . but it’s worth every penny! After two or three days, the winner will clearly rise to the top.

Also, challenge your team to ask, “How would this person fit into our work culture?” What is their nature? What drives them? How would they fit in? Would they share the same work ethic? Will adding them enhance our culture . . . or dilute it?

As for board members, the way you create filters and set expectations . . starts with roles and responsibilities.

When talking with a potential board member, talk with them about SPECIFIC--and I mean SPECIFIC--areas of responsibilities you expect them to uphold. Yes, they are required to “help” with your fundraising efforts, but what does that mean, SPECIFICALLY? How much money are the expected to raise? Do they have to host a dinner party? How many board meetings will they be required to attend? Whatever your commitments are, be honest and open upfront, so you don’t hear excuses like “I didn’t sign up for this!” later on.

Culture fit is also a big deal with board members. When nominating a new board member, have the board ask, “How will this person fit into the culture of our board?” What is the NATURE of this person? Are they stubborn? Are the hard working? Are they truly as passionate about the mission as the rest of us?

The more unified and cohesive your board is, the more effective they will be—and less drama you’ll have to babysit.

As for bringing on high quality volunteers, the process is similar to bringing on high quality staff.

One of the best filters you can create to outline your expectations of volunteer service is to create a volunteer handbook. These are similar to employee handbooks and include everything from standards of behavior to job functions. Search the internet and you’ll find some great templates. You should also have a thorough orientation and training process that’s provided by an experienced volunteer or staff member.

And of course, you’re going to want to make sure the volunteers fit snuggly into your volunteer culture . . . because happy volunteers, working in unison, can do the “un-imaginable” for your nonprofit.

Ok, You’re short on resources. That’s a given. You don’t have time to deal with drama queens and deadweights. It may take more time upfront to find high quality people, but it will save hundreds of hours of wasted time and aggravation on the back end.

The point is, BE PATIENT when hiring and nominating people. Create GOOD filters and set CLEAR expectations of work and service. If you do these things, you WILL find high quality people that are both competent AND committed.

That’s it for today, Tune in next week for Day 4 of Boot Camp, where you’ll learn how to “RETAIN” the high quality people you’ve brought on.

Until then, create a great day!

That’s it! If you enjoyed the show, . . . then like it and share it! And don’t forget to write me. Ask me a question or tell me what you’d like see on the show.

Throughout Boot Camp, I not only want to teach you the structures you’ll need to build a high-performance, gold standard nonprofit, I want to help you think differently. I want to help you Focus on what matters in the long run! . . . thinking about people, culture, exec-board relations, sustainable funding.

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

Additional Resources:


Tom's Books, Podcasts, and YouTube Channel

Tom Iselin has built four sector-leading nonprofits and four foundations. He’s written six books, sits on six boards, and hosts a video blog and podcast. Each year, Tom speaks to more than 5,000 nonprofit leaders at conferences across the country. He is considered America's best board retreat and strategic planning facilitator and is a leading authority on high-performance nonprofits, and his impact on the industry has been featured on CNN, Nightline, and in Newsweek.

Tom is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board development retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, executive coaching, and speaking. To relax, he loves mountain biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, and baking.

If you’re in the hunt for the best board retreat/board development facilitation, or the best strategic planning facilitation, it would be a privilege to learn more about your organization and the aspirations you hope to achieve as you work to propel your noble mission. Jot me an email to set up a meet-and-greet call.

To learn more, visit:


Looking for answers?

I’m here to help. Contact me . . ., or 858.888.2278


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