One employee or two for your nonprofit?

Last week, I heard of yet another charity or association about to hire one full time employee help wantedas their only employee, figuring they can only afford one. But usually their budget easily allows for two part-time staff members, and I’ve found there are a lot of benefits to that approach.

If the Board hires just an administrative person, they will likely not get strategic advice to the board or governance support. The Board will likely be unable or unwilling to delegate significant authority to operate the organization, so the Board and officers will deal with operational matters a lot. That leaves little time for setting direction, oversight and other governance functions.

If the Board hires just an executive director, they will be paying a relatively high rate for routine work such as keeping up a member or donor database and posting web updates. And the job won’t be appealing to many potential good candidates.

With two part-time people, a small organization can have:
• Appropriate pay for the type of work.
• Appropriate delegation of authority, and some division of duties for financial controls.
• Some coverage during vacation and sick leaves, rather than a complete absence.
• Succession planning, through shadowing of functions for coverage when one is away, so knowledge stays with the organization when one person leaves.
• More organized records, since they have to be accessible to both staff members.
• Longer customer service hours and quicker turnarounds, on average, for online inquiries.
• Two employees in attendance at major events such as Annual General Meetings, to help them run more smoothly.
• Complementary skill sets since no one is good at everything – and, let’s be honest, many Executive Director types are not the best at detail work.
• Less burnout since evening committee meeting attendance and travel can often be split between the two.
• Employees who can bounce ideas and drafts off each other, so the Board gets better reports and recommendations.
• Greater outreach, since they can both represent the organization in the community and be active on social media.

Technology now makes such arrangements much easier than they used to be. With documents in the cloud, VOIP telephone services, online access to bank and PayPal accounts, and Skype for regular conversations, the two employees can be based quite far apart. A physical office is needed only if your members or clients need such access. If not, both can work from home offices, or one can work in rented space and maintain physical records while the other works virtually.

If these outcomes matter to your organization, consider this option! Just be scrupulously fair about the work schedule, results expectations, and benefits. Don’t pay for three days a week and expect eleven (true story).

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