ANNOUNCEMENT | 10 Years of the Canadian Nonprofit Employer of Choice Award Program

publication date: Apr 16, 2024
author/source: Jeff Doran

This year, the Nonprofit Employer of Choice award program (NEOC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It doesn’t seem that long ago that founding partners Jeff Doran and Jim Hilborn, sat in a Toronto coffee shop working out the details on what would become the leading program dedicated to recognizing top employers in the Canadian nonprofit sector.

The partnership was a natural fit. Doran’s organization, CCEOC Inc., had the structure, process, and tools to support, establish and manage the national employer of choice program. The Hilborn Group operates Canada’s largest publishing business dedicated to the nonprofit sector.

Both Jim and Jeff agreed that the program needed to address three key challenge areas –

1. Attracting top talent
2. Engaging and retaining top talent
3. Branding and PR to drive donor participation

According to nonprofits who have participated over the years, the NEOC program has achieved these objectives and more.

“The NEOC process helped us to better understand how we compare to other organizations in the sector. We also gained valuable insights from staff about what we were doing well, and which areas we need to improve, which we’ve set as goals in our 4-year strategic plan.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association – York Region and South Simcoe
“Being a Nonprofit Employer of Choice winner is helping to attract top talent and retain staff. This has become especially critical since (in our last fiscal year) our staff grew by approximately 30% to meet growing program and client needs. We highly recommend the NEOC program for the insights it can offer.”

Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association (ARTA)
“By going through NEOC’s leadership review and HR inventory, NEOC’s anonymous member survey identified areas in which we were not fully supporting our employees. In particular, we felt we needed to more heavily promote staff training and development. I’d highly recommend the NEOC process to other nonprofits who, like ARTA, want to continue to grow as an organization and be a place where staff love to work.”

Over the past decade, NEOC has grown steadily and includes many well-known Canadian nonprofits: Plan International Canada, UNICEF, CMHA, Ducks Unlimited, LOFT, Movember, ALS Canada, Goodwill Industries, Operation Eyesight, and United Way to name a few.

While the program is great for larger, more visible organizations, it’s also tailored to meet the needs of smaller nonprofits by utilizing a two-tiered assessment process. Organizations with less than 50 employees participate in the “Tier One” category which is geared to small/mid-sized nonprofits.

A robust and validated assessment process

Once an organization registers for NEOC they are vetted for eligibility and then complete the two-phased assessment. First is the “Organizational Profile.” This phase provides the opportunity to outline all the leadership and HR benefits that make an organization an employer of choice. Phase two is the “Employee Commitment Survey.” This is the perfect tool to measure how employees truly feel about workplace culture, level of engagement, and commitment. The winners of the NEOC designation are showcased in Charity eNews, listed on the NEOC website, and promoted through various social media channels.

While the branding and promotional opportunities are important, what participants really like is the detailed reporting that helps them target specific areas for improvement and achieve outstanding results.

2023 was a busy year

More organizations participated in 2023 than ever before, and a collaboration with one of the leading management consultancies in Canada—The Osborne Group—was established. The Osborne Group brings a tremendous depth of knowledge and understanding to the nonprofit sector. They have a thorough grasp of the NEOC program and add their expertise to help organizations achieve their employer of choice goals.

The NEOC program has come a long way in the last 10 years. The team is constantly looking for ways to improve and support those that participate in the program; to help nonprofit organizations become recognized as employers of choice, and to celebrate their achievements.

The NEOC program will continue to evolve and offer Canadian nonprofits the opportunity to understand their people needs better, develop superior work environments, and promote top employer brands. Stay tuned. More exciting things to come!

Now may be the time to start your employer of choice journey. If you are interested in learning more, let us know. Visit for more information, or email Jeff at

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