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George Weiner

George Weiner

Posted: December 1, 2009 06:09 PM

11 Tips on Hunting and Capturing a Not-For-Profit Techie

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Capturing a good techie in the open job market is something that 80 percent of nonprofits struggle with at some point (the other 20 percent are probably lying). I have interacted with many organizations that know they have a need for a techie (i.e. programmer, IT, web design, social media manager, online/SEO strategist) but can't find the right person. This includes DoSomething.org. They post descriptions on idealist.org and other job sites, moan about not having enough money to afford a great person, and end up hiring an outside firm instead. Don't give up! Just change the hunt.

In 2007, I was partially tasked with finding a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) for DoSomething.org. After a year of countless interviews and two failed hires that had great resumes, we found our solution with tip #3. Bottom line: I believe the most important thing to find in your techie is passion. Here are 11 tips to help you tackle the task:

1. What are you looking for? The first rule of hunting is to know what you're hunting for.
• Talk to your staff, is there a tech need that isn't being addressed? Just saying "tech" is like just saying "finance", it's broad.
• Check out your peers and survey their tech structure/best practices.
• Look at other "tech" job descriptions online.

2. You need the right bait to catch the right techie. This begins with a good job description.
• What are the coding languages you need someone to know?
• What skills does this person need to possess?
• What should the title be?

3. Can you grow your own? Yes. It is indeed possible to grow your own techie. No need to hunt if you think there is someone hungry for the position internally. Give your ambitious neophyte a budget, some books, and connect them with other people in the field who are willing to mentor.

4. Poaching is an ugly but true part of hunting. Don't cripple another great organization. Many larger companies are full of frustrated techies that want more experience, freedom, and a cause that is greater than themselves to work for.

5. Look for watering holes where techies gather. Meetup.com has a "Tech Meet Up" in most markets, once a month. Go. Hunt where the animals graze!

6. Students are much smarter than you were in college. Find the best-rated tech colleges near you and post in the media lab. Or find the best rated professors on RateMyProfessor.com and get the inside info on the best students. Good teachers know good students.

7. In-house is better than the outhouse when it comes to ongoing tech work. Complete outsourcing of your code and web site work should be done with extreme caution and lowered expectations. It should only be considered in the case of IT computer work or one-time builds of a new Web site or system.

8. Post on Idealist.org, craigslist.com and monster.com under the relevant fields. Prepare to do some serious application sorting. Then test 'em -- Apprentice style! Ask potential applicants to do a task that proves their competency and passion.

9. Watch out for the sick ones at the back of the pack. You wouldn't want to get an operation from the cheapest doctor that you could find. Find average techie salaries at Payscale.com

10. It will be easier to catch a nonprofit techie if you hunt in the right communities. Here are some spots to check:
• NTEN -- http://www.nten.org/jobs
• Net Impact -- http://jobs.netimpact.org/
• Idealist.org -- http://www.idealist.org

11. Let the hunter become the hunted by posting the job on your own site. Make it sound attractive and competitive (as in there is a lot of demand already) and share the hell out of it on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn.com, your email signature, conferences, and anywhere else you can think of.