DSAIA Digest June 2012: Are More DSA's Hiring Staff?

Thu, May 31, 2012 9:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Hiring Staff: A New Trend in the DS Community? 


Employee of month sign 
Several DSAIA affiliates have hired staff in the last few years. Some are moving from part-time to full-time positions while others are bringing in an employee for the first time. DSAIA spoke with two groups who have hired within the last few months.
For the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte (DSACNC), a long-range planning breakout session at the 2008 DSAIA Conference was the beginning stage of hiring staff. The organization formed a Long-Range Planning Committee after the conference. Terri Leyton, DSACNC Program Director, explained that one of the committee's recommendations was to hire staff. "Ultimately, the Long-Range Planning Committee and the Board of Directors felt that if our organization was to grow and continue to provide quality programs to our members we would have to hire someone to take us to the next level," she said. After hiring two part-time employees in 2010, DSACNC recently hired their first full-time executive director this year.
For the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware (DSAD), the story might be familiar to a lot of DSAIA members. "The board was getting burned out," said Karen Marsh, DSAD President. "A few of us were doing everything year after year. If we did get volunteer help, the task/program was often not a priority." The decision to hire staff was not a decision DSAD rushed into. The organization has been talking about hiring staff for more than five years. According to Marsh, the reaction to their new hire has been fantastic.  
Staff titles and job duties are a priority when planning a new hire. DSAD made the decision to hire a part-time program director. "After talking with numerous other affiliates, we decided that made the most sense," said Marsh. "Programming is the heart of what we do. Getting the programming done would free up our board to do other things - grants, other fundraising opportunities, chairing committees and recruiting members to get them involved." DSACNC hired a program director in 2010, but moved to hiring a full-time executive director in 2012 along with a contract employee to run their summer camp. "We contracted the services of a consulting firm that specializes in nonprofits both in 2010 and 2012 to help in the hiring process," said Leyton of DSACNC. "Our hiring committee consisted of board members, people from within the organization and a community partner with Human Resources expertise." DSAD created a hiring committee from board members, let them review applications and do the initial round of interviews. The final interviews were with the president (Marsh), vice-president and fundraising chair. "It helped a lot to see other affiliates' job descriptions," explained Marsh, who utilized the DSAIA Repository as a resource in the planning stages. "We had committee chairs write down areas they needed help. We then created our own description."  
DSAD hired a recent graduate as their program director with the hope that she will "roll" into an executive director position in the next 2-5 years. While the organization advertised the position to their leadership and members as well, Marsh said that no one from within applied for the position. DSACNC did hire from within their organization, which is very common. "Although we had many applications come in from people both within and outside our organization," said Leyton, "the hiring committees found the best candidates for three of the four positions came from within the organization." Kathryn Lariviere (who was hired as the new executive director and was a former board member) said, "I feel like I've been interviewing for this position for the last six years!"

Gaps in the Maps Survey Released 


Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action (DSAIA), the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) have partnered to ensure that all families have access to support and information from a local Down syndrome affiliate through the "Gaps in the Map" Project. The project's goal is to locate and document all Down syndrome support groups in order to identify what areas are not being served and then explore ways to provide that support to the "gap" areas. We need YOUR help in making this project a success by doing the following:
    1. Complete this BRIEF survey by clicking here.
    2. Forward this newsletter to all your friends in the Down syndrome community nationwide! Encourage them to fill out the survey!
    3. Tweet and share the survey link with other group leaders via social media!
    4. Talk about this project with at least one organization in the Down syndrome community today.
    5. Be creative! The more we share this project, the more families will receive the support and information they deserve!
    Stay tuned for a variety of fun and cool ways to share this project with your friends and friend organizations. Click herefor all the latest project details or visit us on Facebook
    For more information, contact Deanna Tharpe, DSAIA Executive Director, at or 701-425-7129 or Allison Wixted, DSAIA Gaps in the Map Chair, at or 804-920-9643. 

What To Know When You're Hiring


Hiring staff does have measurable benefits.  According to Maureen Gallagher and Louise Borke of Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC), it not only frees the board up to focus on governance rather than day-to-day operations, but also provides more responsiveness to your membership and consistency in your quality and programs.  If your decision is to hire staff, plan to devote 3-6 months to create the strategic plan, determine what position to hire first, and determine what you can afford (including salary and benefits). 



Try researching other similar organization and the competitive landscape for professional staff in your area. Be sure and review the DSAIA 2011 Demographic Survey which includes staff number and salary information. Before you start hiring, ensure you have enough funds to pay for the staff person and related expenses for at least one year. For more information from MDSC's presentation on Hiring Staff from the 2012 DSAIA Leadership Conference, visit the DSAIA Repository’s 2012 Conference Powerpoints section.


To get ahead of the tax and regulatory issues regarding hiring your first staff person, review the information from Charlene Hill's (DSAIA Treasurer) presentation from the 2012 Conference entitled "We've Hired Staff: Now What?". Both the MDSC and Hill presentations are full of information sure to help you as you start this journey. A large variety of employment documents (including Employee Manuals, Applications, Evaluation Tools, etc.) can be found in the DSAIA Repositoryunder Operations and Administration/Employees.

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio


Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action started as a conference bringing together outstanding leadership from Down syndrome organizations around the country. Learn More

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