Fullfilling the Mission

Hourglass is a temp agency with a distinctive market specialty: nonprofits.

As anyone who’s worked there knows, the nonprofit realm can be quirky. Nonprofit organizations often rely heavily on volunteers, whom nonprofit managers can’t oversee the same way they do employees. In addition, the distinctive sense of mission creates a complex psychological environment. And if a key employee departs, not just anyone can jump in.

Heather Riddle knows that world very well. After 15 years working in and overseeing fundraising for large organizations including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Macalester College, Riddle knew what it was like to need a temp worker—and how existing agencies often couldn’t provide the people she needed. “The training load for me, as a manager, was too much,” she recalls.

In January, Riddle founded St. Paul–based Hourglass to provide trained, screened temps for nonprofits. Its client list includes the Children’s Theatre Company (no, Hourglass doesn’t supply actors or theater techies) and Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

The skills nonprofits typically need are, not surprisingly, those that involve raising money. That includes writing grant requests, organizing special events, and managing donor databases. “Database conversions are a really big deal,” Riddle notes. “They’re really hard on staff.”

Colin Kennedy, whose background includes call center management for Macalester and business development for local marketing firms, joined Hourglass in April. He works out of the company’s current office, which doubles as Riddle’s kitchen. Kennedy focuses on the administrative side of the business and also screens potential temps; Riddle beats the bushes for business and keeps clients happy.

To put it mildly, it’s a challenging time to run a nonprofit. At the same time, “the talent pool right now is really huge,” Riddle notes. Taking on a temp, she adds, allows the nonprofit and the short-term employee to check each other out, in case a full-time position opens up later. Many workers like temporary assignments; once the project is completed, they can pursue outside endeavors.

“I’m looking for individuals to go into an organization and be a part of the organization,” Riddle says. “Some people like to go into a situation knowing that ‘I’m going to come in here for two years and I’ll be really successful.’” And then they can move on, their mission completed, while the mission of the organization continues on.