Yusra Rizwan, our human resources coordinator, discusses the human resources challenges non-profits like Islamic Relief Canada face.


Non-profit organizations face multiple resource challenges including financial, informational and human resources and Islamic Relief Canada is no exception.

Over the past few years, we’ve had exponential growth in all operational areas. As the fundraising and community outreach has expanded, so has the need for human resources. One of the greatest challenges faced by non-profit organizations today is the recruitment and retention of talent. This is especially crucial as these human resources are the agents of service provided by these organizations.

This challenge persists for various reasons. Firstly, it is a fact that most non-profit organizations don’t pay competitive wages. Additionally, there is a stigma around an individual’s choice to work for a charity. There are perceived notions that charities cannot offer the same learning and growth opportunities as the for-profit industry. Secondly, the need to address financial and informational resource challenges often overshadow the human resource need. However, as the organization continues to grow, it becomes imperative to invest in the retention of individuals with the talent and skills to help enable and support this growth. That being said, an organization cannot retain its employees, if it does not understand their motivation, drive and challenges. Islamic Relief Canada is fortunate to employ talented and dedicated individuals that add value and creativity to everything they do.

 One such employee, Amna Shafi, Manager of Programs Finance was interviewed to get her take on the human resource challenge faced by non-profits:

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and the start of your journey at Islamic Relief Canada

I started at Islamic Relief Canada in April 2013. I had moved from Alberta and started at Islamic Relief Canada a week later. When I joined the organization, it was starting to grow exponentially. Prior to joining, I did not have a lot of exposure to the non-profit industry.

Q: What has changed the most drastically from when you started to now?

When I started, IRC was more of a start-up. Now there has been an addition of more individuals that are adding value as we grow. I believe IRC is now making greater strides towards becoming a model charitable organization. When I started, it was more about getting our name out there and gaining the trust and respect of our donors.  Now that we have an established reputation, there is movement towards holding non-for profits to higher standards. As an organization, we need to meet the same industry standards as for profit businesses. And especially with our Islamic morals and ethics we need to ensure we exceed these standards.

Q: What do you attribute this change to?

IRC has grown of the years, so has our staff. The addition of new members with varying degrees of experience and talents and fresh new perspectives. This has enabled IRC to move beyond the start-up phase.

Q: One of the biggest HR challenges for non-profits is attracting and retaining talent. What motivates you to come to work every day?

For me personally, even though I am doing operational level work, I know I am helping the organization get food to a hungry child. For me as a mother, that is what motivates me to come to work every day, knowing I can in some small part help feed a hungry child. On the administrative side of things, I know I am helping the organization achieve its goal of becoming recognizable on a national level and show that a Muslim organization can be as effective and competitive as other charities in Canada.

Q: One of the most common reasons non-profits have a high turnover is because they are unable to pay competitive salaries. How do you think IRC has responded to this challenge?

The pool of people we have is very young and creative. They think out of the box and this is the best place for them learn and add value. Even though they might not get compensated based on industry standards, they are contributing to the success of a charity and making a difference. They have the opportunities to shape strategies, implement programs and introduce innovative ideas. These kind of opportunities cannot really be found anywhere else.

Q: Do you think there is a stigma around working for a charity in our society?

There is, and it’s the issue of compensation. People believe that if you work for a charity, you don’t get compensated fairly. Even though this is not always true, to combat that, the experience you can get outweighs this. The fact is that the experience you can gain is very fluid, you can learn a lot outside of your area of expertise from other groups and departments due to the collaborative nature of the organization. This enables us to our jobs better and develop as individuals.

Q: Throughout your career at Islamic Relief Canada have you found yourself justifying your career choices to others?

Yes, mostly due to compensation. People question why you work here when you could make more elsewhere. My response goes back to my dedication to the cause and the incredible learning and development opportunities that an organization such as IRC provides. 

Q: Finally, what are the challenges you face in working for a charity?

As we are still growing, there is room for stabilization. IRC has tons of talent and great potential. It can be easy sometimes to get overwhelmed by the rapid growth. Everyone works hard every day to ensure that we are we are staying on the right track and constantly moving towards achieving our mission while staying true to our values.