Imagine you are an HR manager for a nonprofit organization with a staff of 40 people. You began your career working as an admin in the operations department of a nonprofit and taught yourself about Human Resources by working in the job. As a result, you got promoted into this new role. You are the only HR person at the organization. Your boss knows a little about what’s involved but is truly a generalist who responsible for a ton of functions–from HR to finance to real estate to legal needs. Neither of you have ever worked for an organization of more than 40 people.
Where do you go to identify best practices? Where do you go for support when problem solving? Where do you go to understand the ways in which your systems need to change as the organization grows to have a staff of 50, 75 and 100 people? To whom do you turn when you want to vent about your challenges to someone who understands the situation? Where do you go to think about your own professional development and career advancement?
For a small nonprofit, this is a very common scenario for professionals working in departments like marketing, HR, IT and finance that consist of only one member (or fewer) due to the organizations small scale. These professionals are often self trained and report to someone without a lot of functional knowledge or experience.
How can we leverage the systems of large companies to support these function-area professionals who are relatively isolated from their peers? How could companies leverage their teams and systems to share with these nonprofit professionals? What if each corporate department “adopted” the functional staff of their company’s grantees?
We talk about wanting nonprofits to scale and to be able to retain top talent. Both of these require finding a solution to this issue of isolation for these functional areas.