Finding Good People to Do Good Work for the Greater Good





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Sep 19, 2017
by Louise Hallman
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Finding Good People to Do Good Work for the Greater Good

Key insights from discussions looking at how to attract top talent to the philanthropy sector Participants at Session 581 - Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Philanthropy

The corporate sector puts great emphasis on hiring “the best of the best.” With the increasing importance of private philanthropy in the wake of public sector austerity and growing global challenges, how can we attract top talent to the philanthropy sector – one known for its altruism, not huge salaries?

The challenge of hiring good people to do good work for the benefit of the greater good is the focus of Session 581 - Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy. After a keynote speech, panels and working groups, participants came away with key insights.

Identify motivation

Etymologically, philanthropy means “love of humankind,” and certainly this seems to be primary motivation for many in the room at Schloss Leopoldskron to have sought (or in some cases, unexpectedly found) careers in the sector. Some have come to the field from elsewhere, having worked in human resources in the corporate or academic sector. Some are drawn to the sector as a whole, others are motivated by specific causes, be that the environment, public health or women’s rights. Understanding motivations for working in our sector can help us be better recruiters.

Develop a positive workplace culture

Those who share the same motivations and values as their colleagues and the organization as a whole are likely to perform better in their role – a key component in developing a strong workplace culture.

Other components of a workplace culture include the organization’s structure, policies and procedures, communications style, technology use, dress code and the physical environment.

“A clearly articulated and authentically realized culture will ensure alignment of mission, values, practice and people.”

Developing a culture that is both inclusive and diverse can be a challenge, especially in organizations that are multi-cultural, multi-generational, and multi-location. Get it right though and it can pay dividends – building a positive workplace culture and hiring people who fit into it can help productivity, morale and retention of the best talent.

Introduce flexibility

One distinct example of work culture that was shared in Salzburg was one of great flexibility: no fixed working hours, no fixed working place, and unlimited annual leave. “Until I worked in a flexible workplace, I never realized how much I would value it.

Now I couldn’t imagine working anyway else,” remarked the speaker introducing the idea. This culture “treats employees as adults with lives,” allowing people to work around their lives, in hours that suit them and their families.

“We get more out of people who want to give more.”

However, this isn’t for everyone, the speaker admitted. Introducing a culture like this without having laid the groundwork by building a high degree of trust between employers and employees would likely fail.

Employers need to trust that the work will be done without imposing fixed working hours and employees need to trust that they won’t be so overworked that they will work all the time and never take any annual leave.

Assess character, not just skills 

“Hire for the characteristics you want, not just the skills,” was one piece of advice. The characteristics desired will be driven in part by the culture and strategy of the organization. In one case study presented in Salzburg, for a Brazilian foundation, which was wanting to expand ambitiously and rapidly, hiring young people who were also ambitious and eager for societal change was key. Why young?

“Young people are more open change,” and an organization going through rapid growth will need to change and adapt accordingly. These new people were then included in helping to develop the newly expanded organization’s culture – which, although put them at odds with longer-serving employees, placed the organization on the stronger footing to meet its strategic goals.

Attract Millennials

Young people (a.k.a. Millennials, born approximately between the nearly 1980s and the early 2000s) are commonly thought of to be seeking purpose, highly values-driven, eager for social change and justice, an embracing of innovation, inclusivity and diversity. This should make them a perfect fit for the philanthropic sector. And they can be – but they can also be demanding. 

Talk your talk, walk your walk and embrace diversity

Many Fellows in Salzburg remarked that Millennials frequently put pressure on their employers to include them in decision-making, preferring horizontal to hierarchical structures, and for them to “walk their walk,” said one participant.

If your organization’s programs espouse values such as diversity, inclusivity and transparency, you must be willing to ensure your organization, work culture and employees also live up to these values.

Diversity in the workplace brings diversity of experiences and ideas – hugely important if we’re to meet the world’s challenges.

Have courage

We live in challenging times – from political polarization and unrest to persistent social inequality and climate change – and philanthropy has an important role to play in helping the world address these challenges. To do that, philanthropy needs to be bold – both in our program delivery and in hiring the people to deliver those programs. Is philanthropy a sector, a field, an industry or a movement? If we’re to be a movement – encouraging collaboration across organizations and interest groups – then we not only need leaders to start the movement, but also brave first followers who can then encourage more followers to help build momentum and drive us forward.


The Salzburg Global program Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy is part of Salzburg Global’s longstanding series Optimizing Institutional Philanthropy. It is being held in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Zeshan Foundation. More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGSphil.