7 critical nonprofit HR functions you should not neglect

Includes 17 FREE HR resources designed to elevate and optimize nonprofit HR

Serving the community is not an easy thing to do and nonprofits like yours deserve a triumphant salute for your relentless efforts and never-ending commitment. So here we are with yet another article to help you get your focus back to the most critical HR functions you might have been neglecting.

Do not forget to grab the free resources tucked in the article. Here is a list of all the useful freebies you are going to find:

  • Corrective Action Bundle 
      • Performance Improvement Plan
      • Written Record for First Verbal Warning
      • Corrective Action Policy
  • Essential HR Documents Kit
      • Emergency Response Plan
      • Corporate Social Responsibility Policy
      • Conflict of Interest Policy, Anti-Corruption and Bribery Policy
      • Computer Use & Appropriate Social Media Conduct Policy
      • Travel & Expense Policy
      • Working from Home Policy
      • Termination Letter, Without Cause
    • Health and Safety Statement Policy
    • WHMIS Policy
    • 3 Printable Posters from CCOHS

Most nonprofits work with limited resources and don’t have an in-house HR department to handle core HR functions. Instead, they rely upon the executive director, board chairperson, or managers who already wear multiple hats to handle these daunting tasks. How about your nonprofit? While you try to do more with less, have you been compromising on critical HR functions? Let’s find out!

1. Corrective Action and Termination

The prospect of disciplinary or corrective action and termination makes most of us nervous. Unfortunately, dealing with these heart-wrenching situations are part and parcel of nonprofit HR. 

You must have a corrective action plan to set clear direction and give employees a chance to improve. Ideally, through corrective action, you will be able to save your nonprofit from the cost and burden of hiring again by retaining employees. A proper corrective action framework will ensure all employees are treated fairly and consistently and understand the steps of corrective action clearly. It also ensures corrective action is well documented and on file in case a termination is challenged and you need to defend your actions in court. Do you have a corrective action plan in place? 

Terminations, while stressful, are an inevitable part of every business. It is critical that they are handled carefully and in accordance with the law to mitigate as much risk as possible–both to your reputation and the possibility of litigation. There is much to consider, from the type of termination to the amount of notice and/or pay to be provided to the employee you are terminating.

Here are some tips to avoid pitfalls while you carry out a termination or corrective action. 

  • Have a well-drafted Termination Letter.
    You need to follow certain procedures while terminating an employee and issuing an official Termination Letter is an essential part of it. A poorly written termination letter without the appropriate amount of notice, termination pay, or common law consideration can open you up to lawsuits. This Termination Letter Without Cause is an excellent starting point, but an important recommendation is to seek expert HR or Legal Counsel for further advice.

We have enclosed a Termination Letter Without Cause Template in the ‘Essential HR Documents Kit’.

  • Ensure everyone in your nonprofit understands your policies via a handbook or policy manual.
    • When your staff is aware of your policies including your corrective action or termination policies, enforcement becomes easier and your managers have a structure to follow to help them act in a fair and unbiased manner. This will also put you in a safer place if an employee or former employee begins legal action against you.
  • Investigate thoroughly before making a hasty decision.
    • Sometimes you might be in a rush to correct or dismiss an employee without hearing the employee’s side of the story. Make sure you have given the employee a chance to explain, considered all the facts and have inquired well before jumping to conclusions. Keep in mind that you would be in a legal danger zone if the employee can prove wrongful termination.
  • Document corrective actions
    • When you deliver corrective actions, draft everything, including written warnings, minutes of disciplinary meetings and performance evaluations. There is a process that must be followed and showing you did your due diligence will come in handy if things get ugly. 
  • Conduct terminations in a professional manner
    • Do not dismiss an employee over a WhatsApp message or phone call. Instead, have a face-to-face termination meeting. Issue a termination letter, explain the notice period or severance pay details if applicable, shake hands (or give an elbow bump) and bid the employee a respectful adieu. If you are able to help the employee to secure new employment, such as by providing a reference letter, do so. 

2. HR Compliance

Nonprofits have duties beyond typical HR functions like onboarding employees or payroll management. One such HR function is HR Compliance. There are numerous legislated requirements you must follow and experienced and dedicated HR personnel can help you solve the following compliance challenges.

Challenge 1: Monitoring

Most nonprofits feel lost in complying with the ever-changing employment laws. With too little time on their hands and too much to do, monitoring the compliance landscape is nearly impossible. Subscribing to newsletters of government organizations, nonprofit associations, legal firms, and HR consulting firms can solve the monitoring problem to a certain extent, as most of them notify you as soon as a significant change happens. 

Challenge 2: Complying with the amendments

Even when you are caught up with all the latest compliance changes, complying with these could be another challenge. Provincial and federal governments often introduce new employment laws or revise current Acts. You need to implement new policies and procedures, or make changes to the existing ones to comply, and then roll these out to your staff members accordingly. 

For example, many of you in Ontario might be aware of the new legislation and need for a Right to Disconnect Policy to comply with Ontario’s Bill 27, but have you looked at the legislation or drafted a compliant policy to go with it yet? (Spoiler alert: this legislation is not the fastest or easiest read…and that’s putting it mildly!) Fear not, if you don’t have the policy, download a free Right to Disconnect Policy Template here.

Challenge 3: Staying Compliant Year Over Year

Compliance doesn’t end with constantly scanning the landscape and catching up with the latest amendments. It involves proactive revision and periodic review of your policies and procedures. With too many documents to review, this can be an uphill task. 

A comprehensive compliance checklist can streamline your compliance assessment process and ease the struggle.

3. Recruiting

Whether you are looking for volunteers or someone with special skill sets to join your nonprofit, recruiting can be challenging for nonprofits. You can’t afford to make a bad decision, especially while hiring for key roles such as Executive Directors. Your recruiting decisions will decide your nonprofit’s future, which is why recruiting is one of the most critical nonprofit HR functions.

Here are some tips for getting strong candidates:

  • Identify your long-term recruiting goals and key positions
  • Prepare a recruiting checklist
  • Draft a strong Job Description 
  • Include a salary range on job postings
  • Implement a stringent screening process
  • Cast a wide net: take advantage of your social media, employees, and donor circle for headhunting, and use language and strategies to increase the diversity of your candidates
  • Post your job ad on nonprofit-centric job sites 


4. Documentation

Did you know that forgetting to dot an ‘i’ or strike a ‘t’ in an HR policy can land you in hot water? Writing HR policies and drafting employment contracts and other HR documents is a task that should be done cautiously.   

So what makes documentation so difficult?

  • Preparing HR policies, employment contracts and other documents requires a lot of research, time and effort.
  • You may not be aware of all the policies mandated by provincial and federal governments.
  • You are trying to create documents from scratch by yourself.
  • You are struggling to validate and customize policy templates from the internet.
  • You are facing challenges in reviewing and revising the policies when needed.

If you are the Executive Director or someone in one of those key positions at your nonprofit, and if you have been buried in all the paperwork, do not hesitate to hand over this critical function to someone who specializes in it. 

5. Health & Safety

There’s a myth that Occupational Health & Safety doesn’t come under HR functions, but it does. HR is that division of an organization that focuses on managing “human” resources, and it should ensure a safe and healthy working environment for the employees. So what should an HR person do to create a safe and healthy work culture?

As per the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you should provide your staff with information on workplace hazards, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, injury prevention methods, and provide the required training on topics such as Violence and Harassment and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). You must ensure your nonprofit has all the required Health and Safety documents, and employees follow safe work practices. You may also require a Health and Safety Committee or Representative, and are responsible for conducting/arranging Health and Safety audits to identify potential hazards including chemical, ergonomic, physical or psychosocial. 

Every workplace is prone to hazards, and your nonprofit is no exception. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and you can’t be researching how to handle the situation in the spur of the moment. If you have over 20 employees, you need an Emergency Response Plan, that includes accessibility considerations, to save lives and minimize damage during an emergency. 

6. Culture

HR is the steward of culture and the ideal catalyst for improving the interpersonal interactions at your nonprofit. 

You don’t need an HR department to promote a positive work culture. You just need to monitor and foster a culture of ethics that reflects your organization’s mission. In addition, you should ensure that the workplace embraces the idea of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Ensuring unbiased hiring practices, offering equal pay for equal work, and creating equal growth opportunities could contribute to this. Remember, a good culture will make your staff fall in love with the organization and inspire them to work passionately. 

7. Employee Management

Employee management includes tracking employee attendance, managing leaves, addressing employee issues, evaluating employee performance, managing payroll, improving employee engagement, and more! This can be troublesome when you already have a lot on your plate.

As you know, a nonprofit is only as strong as the people who work for it. Therefore, you need an experienced, dedicated, qualified Human Resources expert to manage and motivate your team. 

If you think having an in-house expert is a luxury, you can always think of outsourcing your HR functions to a team of experts without breaking the bank. 

There’s no question about whether you need an HR or not. You need a person or a firm to handle all these tasks so you can enjoy peace of mind and be free to spend time on advancing your organization or mission – like helping the needy or finding more donors. If you are looking to outsource an HR manager, contact us.

About HR Covered: At HR Covered, we have a deep understanding of the critical organizational needs and processes specific to Canadian nonprofits. We ‘get’ your culture, your goals, and what drives you, too. Our unparalleled responsiveness and impeccable service have helped more than 200 nonprofits in Canada to focus on their core activities. For more info visit our website: www.hrcovered.com or call us at +1 647-496-6096.