Managing Nonprofit Hiring Needs on a Nonprofit Budget

In this episode of the Recruiting Daily Podcast, William Tincup interviews Mary Kay Kirgis, Human Resources Business Partner at Crescent Community Health Center. The topic for discussion is managing nonprofit hiring needs on a nonprofit’s budget. We dive into crafty ways to save money on limited or no allowance.

Crescent Community Health Center is a federally qualified health center that provides medical, dental, brain health, and quick care services to anyone in the community, irrespective of their ability to pay. While their biggest grant funder is the federal government, they also receive individual donations of $600,000 to $700,000 per year.

Mary Kay highlights that one of the biggest challenges for nonprofits is finding and recruiting qualified professionals. The most difficult are those ever elusive dentists and dental hygienists. She emphasizes the importance of getting the word out about what a community health center is and the benefits it offers.

The podcast provides insights into how nonprofits can manage their hiring needs within their budget constraints. You can leverage social media, partnering with local universities and colleges, and using employee referrals.

Listening Time: 24 minutes

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Mary Kay Kirgis
HR Business Partner Crescent Community Health Center

What inspires me most is providing leadership and taking ownership of key responsibilities and projects. My genuine passion is fulfilled when working in a collaborative capacity with a driven team in achieving business objectives and deadlines for projects that improve business operations. I continuously strive to understand the bigger business picture and utilize excellent communication skills to build strong working relationships with customers, colleagues and managers.

Throughout my career, I have acquired a reputation for quickly grasping and applying cutting edge strategies to improve the efficiency and productivity of the organization. Effectively combining a Master’s of Business Administration with a 4.0 GPA and a wealth of transferrable skills, I have the fortitude to create innovative solutions to complex business problems.


Managing a Nonprofit’s Hiring Needs on a Nonprofit’s Budget with Mary Kay Kirgis of Crescent Community Health Center

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcasts. Today we have Mary Kay on from Crescent Community Health Center, and this is first time I’ve touched this topic. And so I’m, it’s really I’m really excited because most people would know this, but when I did my mba, I also did an m and o in nonprofits.

I have a background in nonprofit management that I never used. But but do have the passion there. At least I had the passion at one point. The topic for today is managing a [00:01:00] nonprofit’s hiring needs on a nonprofit’s budget. So we’re gonna use a lot of the same words that we use in corporate.

We’re just gonna use ’em differently. So Mary Kay, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Crescent Community Health Center?

Mary Kay Kirgis: Sure. Hi, my name is Mary Kay kk. Good morning to everybody. I am the Human Resources business partner here at Crescent Community Health Center. And Crescent Community Health Center is a federally qualified health center.

We provide medical, dental, brain health, and quick care services to every anybody in the community, no matter their need or their ability to pay. Our biggest grant funder is the federal government at this time. We also bring in a anywhere around 600 to $700,000 a year in individual donations, so we have a very ro robust donation pool.

We also [00:02:00] are very excitingly. We just receive a 1.35 million grant from Delta Dental. To expand our dental practice, so that’s fantastic. That’s pretty exciting as well. So it’s been a, I’ve only been here for about two years and it’s been a kind of a wild ride. We’ve expanded. With Covid and everything right.

Everybody has their own struggles. Our struggle has been that we have been growing so fast that in, in certain ways, it’s hard to keep up. Especially when it comes to hiring. When I started at the end of June, in 2020, we had 65 employees, and as of today, we have 140.

William Tincup: Oh my gosh, yes. That, that is that’s rapid gruff.

What are the what are the positions that are the hardest to find for you right now, or hardest to fill?

Mary Kay Kirgis: Hardest to fill positions. Right now we have actually two that we’ve been struggling with is dentists. And dental hygienist. They are very difficult to [00:03:00] find and it’s really trying to get out as far as those positions.

Some people, when they see community health center, Or fq hc, right? A lot of times they think of us as the free clinic, right? And that these people will be doing work for us for free. That is definitely not the case. We provide, actually, the one thing that we always give to dentists, a lot of the times, your dentist and your dental hygienist work in private practice.

And they tend not to have the robust benefits, that a community health center can offer. So it’s trying to get that word out and that understanding exactly what a community health center is. So anybody out there has any information on good dentists or dental hygienists that are looking for jobs?

William Tincup: So did you work in corporate or have you always worked on the nonprofit side? From an HR

Mary Kay Kirgis: perspective, I. I’ve actually worked in with medical centers most of my career. I worked with Mayo [00:04:00] Clinic for about 10 years. I was at so I was up in Minnesota for about 10 years. And then I was a paralegal for about 10 years.

So I worked for law firms. I worked for another hospital here in Iowa. Our hospital group here in Iowa, unity Point. So I’ve worked a little bit of everything. Nonprofit, not-for-profit and corporate.

William Tincup: What was the biggest kind of transition or shock for you from coming from some of those corporate experiences to a nonprofit experience?

From an hr, especially in a recruiting perspective.

Mary Kay Kirgis: From a recruiting perspective, this has been my first real recruiting opportunity as far as that goes and really getting into the nitty gritty of recruiting. It’s trying to get out the understanding of what we do and how we help and how we can provide a very unique experience.

Right to our employees and also trying to learn from our employees as [00:05:00] to where we’re falling a little bit maybe in benefits and maybe in pay scale. What we need to adjust there, but yet still allow for our funding to really do the good that it needs to do with our patients.

William Tincup: That’s the balance, isn’t it?

It’s, it is. For all the money that you could attract the talent by investing more in perks, benefits bonuses, compensation, et cetera. But every dollar that you invest, there is a dollar that can’t be invested in in the center.

Mary Kay Kirgis: Exactly. And that’s the thing that we, when we look at our benefits and opportunities for us to provide benefits, a lot of times we are looking for those benefits that maybe aren’t.

That we’re not paying for, but we’re offering an opportunity for the employee, right? So it is it like our legal benefit that we offer. It’s a new benefit that we found that we’re, we decided to offer. It’s not [00:06:00] something that we, as a company pays for, but it’s an opportunity for employees to have.

The ability to get that benefit, so if they

William Tincup: need it, they can use it.

Mary Kay Kirgis: Exactly. So it’s just really looking for those items that maybe not, they might not cost us anything, but it’s a unique opportunity for employees to either one, get involved in the community or to provide certain services to their families or themselves that they might not have the opportunity with if they’re just a single person.

William Tincup: Sounds like you had a wonderful kind of experience to sell. I mean that, that’s it for me. Again, I’m looking, and I might be wrong, please tell me if I am people younger in their career, early in their career, they want an array of experiences. And so this would, if I were coming out of dental hygienist school or dental school, it’s this seems like it would be a really fun experience, a way to experience something different before going into private practice or going into [00:07:00] something

Mary Kay Kirgis: else.

Exactly. It provides, the one thing we try to get out, like for the dental area that’s been difficult is we try to get out the fact that we are providing services. That in, in private practice, you might not even see. Because a lot of those patients, one, aren’t coming to those private practices because, we’re the only provider of Medicaid services in the area Oh, wow.

For dental. Okay. So we, we pro, we get a whole slew of patients that you might not see. And you might actually gain a lot of knowledge and experience and things like that most people wouldn’t see in a private practice.

William Tincup: It’s interesting on the, I live in Dallas, Fort Worth. I live in Arlington technically, so right in between Dallas for Worth, but there is a it’s a county jps and in Fort Worth and Parkland and Dallas, and they’re the community hospitals.

And I’ve talked to, I’ve talked to people at both of them through the years, and what’s interesting is people [00:08:00] seek out those experiences because of exactly what you just said. Especially like in the ER room, in the er room of those two hospitals. Things that you’re just, you’re not gonna see anywhere else.

You’re going to see, and not only did you see it once, you’re gonna see it multiple times and it’s, and again, it kinda sets you up for your career to understand, okay, might not really like that type of trauma or that type of er experience, but at least I have it under my belt. And I understand what’s there, and I think so much of navigating a career is finding out what you like and what you don’t like.

So experiences. I really, I love that. And I made that assumption about young, in one’s career or you going after early stage talent. Is that, first of all, is that true? Is, are, do you find yourself going after folks that have been in their career for 15, 20 years or folks starting out in

Mary Kay Kirgis: their career?

It depends on the position, obviously. It our, like our dentists and dental hygienists, our dental [00:09:00] assistants, our medical, as we, we thrive on bringing people in right outta school. And giving them the opportunity to. Provide a very specialized service that you’re not gonna, like I said, you’re not gonna see in a private practice.

But also, one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand is when you work with, especially like dentists, dental hygienists, nurse practitioners, doctors tho those people coming outta school, what we can provide is there’s that nice little dangle that people don’t know about is. Loan repayment.

Oh, interesting. Tell me about that. Federal and state government offer. Hrsa, which is our governing body through the federal, our Health and human Services, they provide for those people coming outta school. If they work in public health right. For a length of time, they can have up to $50,000 of their loan repaid.

Oh my goodness. That’s a big, huge [00:10:00] change. Yeah. And it’s not, and one of the other things is a lot of times people think that I’m not gonna get paid very much at those. We’re, no, we’re not paying the top dollar. But we’re pretty competitive with our dollar amounts, and it’s just getting that out there and letting people know that. We’re here, we provide a great service. We provide everybody great service, no matter who they are, right? And that health equity thing that we’re really working towards. We have a very unique population in Dubuque which a lot of people would be surprised to think of, Midwest population.

We have what would be considered a significant Pacific Islander population in Dubuque. We’re running, we have about a thousand Pacific Islanders that live in Dubuque. Interesting. Okay. So if you c walk into Crescent Community Health Center, one of the thing, first things [00:11:00] you notice is there’s three languages on all of our signage.

There’s English, Spanish, and Marshallese, which is the Pacific Islander language. So we really gear. Our services, our who we sometimes, a lot of, sometimes who we hire, those types of things to make sure that we’re providing translation services and the understanding and things to those populations that really need that type of help.

William Tincup: You know what’s interesting is if someone did the math, let’s say the, again, a dental hygienist if they did the mad comp wise, okay, you’re gonna be close to market rate. You’re not gonna be above market rate, you’re gonna be close to market rate. But if they did the math of loan repayment, how much they’re spending a month in paying back those loans, the math probably plays in their favor.

From the total comp, right from the loan repayment plus their salary. So that’s I think, [00:12:00] first of all, I don’t know, let’s get into kind of how you promote jobs. Like what is. When you have a job openings right now, what’s your, what’s your go-to? Because again we’re dealing with a non-profit budget, so it’s not like you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on job ads and indeed and everything else.

But how do you, once, once you know you have an open position, we’ll we’ll keep running with a dental hygienist. How do you market that job? How do you get that out in front of folks?

Mary Kay Kirgis: So right now, so about a year ago, I guess it’s actually been almost two years. Gosh, time flies when you’re having fun.

We actually did a really big analysis on how we were going about recruiting. And we were doing everything pretty much, we’d go to Indeed or ZipRecruiter or whatever the case may be, right? And manually put those things out there. It was very time consuming, very In inefficient. So we picked up the applicant tracking system, ISOL hire, and that’s how we get our stuff out.

And the thing [00:13:00] I loved about when we took on that process is, I just post the job and it pushes it out and what they say up to 1600 job boards within the country. And then also if you wanna go to some specialized job boards, whether it be medical, dental brain health, whatever the case may be, what you’re looking for it, you can go out to their list of.

Favorites or job boards that you, that are paid job boards and pick and choose. And also there’s, if you have one that you use a lot, you can actually get it set up. Where now, like Access Dubuque is one of our things that we use. I just have to click a button and it pushes it out to access Dubuque for me instead of having to now.

Before I had to put it in two different places. Now I have to put it one right, and it gets it everywhere I wanna go. Our next thing [00:14:00] that we’re going to be doing is there’s a college network here in Iowa for jobs. I’m gonna get that set up within, again, ISOL Tire. So again, it’s just gonna be that one click and it’ll push it out.

To them as well.

William Tincup: I like that. And again, getting that early stage talent, getting on their radar when they first start school as they’re going through their process and having them to just being on their radar so that they know that it’s an option. There’s some great selling points, again, helping the community that in which they serve.

You’re also gonna get a really unique experience. I think the cop, once they do the math, is gonna be similar. If not even more advantageous. One of the things I wanted to ask you is is there any other, is there any other tech that kind of enables the, your jobs or have you done, like specifically have you done employer referrals?

Have you looked at okay, we have a group of, we have 140 plus employees. Have you leveraged those folks in terms [00:15:00] of trying to get candidate flow from them?

Mary Kay Kirgis: Yeah. We have been talking about that quite a bit. We aren’t quite there yet. It’s the com competing priority situation right now.

Oh, okay. There’s only so

William Tincup: much time in the day.

Mary Kay Kirgis: A and also, again, Just to give a little bit of background about what we’re, our struggle has been is we’ve grown so fast. We just moved into our building that we’re in back in 20 November of 2019, and we’ve outgrown it. So we are actually trying to make some decisions on what.

Jobs need to be in house, what jobs can be hybrid, how we can maximize the space that we have and how our current expansion plans, how those flow. And we have to start thinking about our hiring practice while we’re doing that. Cuz while we have a whole bunch of jobs we wanna hire for, we don’t have any [00:16:00] place to put them at the moment.

So it, it’s like we need to put the brakes on just a little bit. But yet still plan and move forward and try to make sure when we do get. The space that we have the people to fill it.

William Tincup: I wanted to ask you on the HR side a budget question because when I talk to practitioners, especially now during this, whatever this recession thing is it’s like they have to do more with less.

So even, the largest companies, some of ’em are having layoffs, et cetera, whatever, but they have to they’ve come to the conclusion that their HR budget isn’t going to be what it was last year or the year before. They’ve gotta do more with less well with nonprofits, at least my experience.

That’s always the case. Doing more with less is that’s normal.

Mary Kay Kirgis: Ex Exactly. So the jack of all trades. Yes.

William Tincup: So how did you, when you first started, when you looked at your HR budget total, when you looked at everything, how’d you prioritize because again, you’re not [00:17:00] sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars and being able to do, spend everywhere you want.

You’ve gotta. Pick the things that are gonna be the most impactful. How’d you do that?

Mary Kay Kirgis: Yeah. When we when I started within our HR was HR of two. And, so it was, and we were only, literally, our HR platform was payroll only. And we really had to have those conversations as. We can’t keep doing everything on paper and we need to become more efficient because if we come in more, become more efficient in these administrative areas, it allows us to actually deal with the things that need to be dealt with.

So it was picking and obviously the other big thing is you can’t eat the whole elephant all at once. You have to do it little bits at a time. So picking what’s the most, what’s the next step, which we decide what we added time, time and attendance on [00:18:00] onto our platform. And then was looking at what was the next step after that.

The most important thing that we thought was getting benefits administration added to our platform. Taking those things that were very high paper, high, touching all those types of things. And getting them more automated. So I, we only have to deal them with them a little bit at a time and just laying out in a list what our steps need to be where our priorities need to be so we can get that off our plate.

And again, now we can focus on policies and our culture and issues with our employees and hiring and those types of things, and where we need to get it. Get to.

William Tincup: And each year it’s reprioritizing, making sure that, okay, what needs to be added, what needs to be pruned, et cetera, being extremely cautious with every dollar that’s

Mary Kay Kirgis: spent.

Yeah. So one of the things we haven’t had to do deal with [00:19:00] before is a scheduling, Option. So we, our schedules are pretty much set Monday through Friday, seven to six, and there might be slight variations with one, one person or the next, but not specific schedules. End of last year we purchased the pharmacy that’s in our building, and now it’s a retail situation, so now there are schedules.

So that’s our next. Hurdle is how can we get our platform that we have to fill that need so we don’t have to do schedules on a spreadsheet.

William Tincup: So I wanted to ask them to, in terms of your peers, either at other like organizations or just other nonprofits in general, maybe outside of the healthcare space have you had any time or any way to connect with people that are doing a similar job at a similar place?

Mary Kay Kirgis: I actually last year as part of trying to continue our community outreach [00:20:00] and partnering with our com our other nonprofits and people within the community. I joined the board, I. Of this nonprofit called Fountain of Youth in Dubuque, and that was more to get the word out, not just of help them with their struggles.

They’re a group of people that help those coming. Out of incarceration or people that are just having struggling with things in life for addiction problems or alcohol or whatever the case may be, and help helping them get on the right track and succeed and having a group of people that can support them.

So by getting on that board, I can also, not only. Help get our word out there, but also see their need and bring that information back to our group of people and see how we can incorporate that need into our services. So those are the things that we try to do and get our fingers out into the community and make sure [00:21:00] that they understand we’re not just here, to help.

Those that just decide to come in our door, but we’re trying to bring people in. So last that answer the question, I think oh, hundred percent.

William Tincup: Hundred percent. Hundred percent. Last question is, for the folks that are listening that maybe on the corporate side what would, what advice would you give to them if they were evaluating taking an HR job?

For a nonprofit?

Mary Kay Kirgis: It’s just understanding that It’s very challenging and they’re, all the same problems no matter what HR job you decide to go into and what a lot of the problems are similar, but the challenge is understanding that. We’re not all about the profit, we’re about the people.

That is something that we, it, I really take to heart that when it comes down to it, when we’re spending money, we got, we really focus on [00:22:00] our patients and our employees and making sure that we’re providing the best opportunity for our patients, but also the best opportunity for our employees.

Drop and allow, allowing growth and training and stuff and trying to do that in a very economical and partnership way with those people within our communities. I love

William Tincup: The framing of, it’s the same stuff you’re dealing with, you work with John Deere, caterpillar or whomever. It’s the same stuff.

If you’re dealing with employee experience, it’s same. It’s the same stuff. You just might have less resources and you might have to become more creative in the way that you tackle those things.

Mary Kay Kirgis: Exactly. And it’s also the thing that we do a lot when, especially like when we’re dealing with training, you wanna provide leadership training and those types of things for our leaders is you really need to start doing your research.

How can. Your people within the community, like Northeast Iowa Community College or Clark College or our, the [00:23:00] universities in the area, how can they assist you? How can we partner together? So it’s, I scratch your back, you scratch mine type situation. So maybe you provide some training to us. We provide the opportunity for your students to come in and do clinical rotations, those types, ag of agreements.

Trying to get grants that are out there to help with training, those types of things. It’s just a lot of research, a lot of just really getting your name out there and, g asking un, everybody hates to ask for money, but unfortunately that’s the job we’re in and we have to go out and do it.

William Tincup: It’s part of it is being really creative and part of it is, in corporate you things can come to you like they’re also you’re solving a lot of problems and fire fires are popping up everywhere. And so you find yourself being a bit reactive to whatever it is in nonprofits in general, especially in hr.

You’ve gotta be more active. Both in raising money and awareness and and things like that. [00:24:00] And you solve those problems. So you’re still fighting some of the same, if not similar problems that corporate does, but I think that’s why a lot of people like the n the non-profit world is because of the challenge.

It’s, it is it is more challenging. Stated and covered, but that’s also the fun of it too. Mary Kay, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for carving out. I know you’re crazy busy, but thank you for car carving out time for

Mary Kay Kirgis: us in the audience. I really appreciate it.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk to you.

William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks everyone for listening. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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