How AHA Made a Business Case for Diversity Recruiting - HR Open Source


The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Founded by six cardiologists in 1924, our organization now includes more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters. We fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives. Our nationwide organization includes 156 local offices and more than 3,500 employees. Our mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.


Diversity. How many times have you read or heard that diversity is the key to a company’s success? Most times you can turn to the good ole fashioned diversity statement in an organization’s careers page or a diversity message from the company’s CEO. Many employers believe the generic statements will bring diverse candidates into the workplace or that diversity is a one-size fits all approach. That simply is just not the case. The success to any organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives involves two key areas of focus:

1. Building diversity into the business plan and making it a part of how the organization does business every day. At the American Heart Association (AHA), we focus on our mission to improve cardiovascular health for all Americans by delivering culturally-competent programs to Women, Youth, Children, African Americans, Hispanics and Communities of Faith, thus impacting a broad portion of the diversity spectrum. Talent that joins this team has the unique opportunity to impact minorities and other communities of diverse backgrounds. This is a true “practice what we preach,” which has far more impact than just posting jobs and hoping diverse candidates will apply.

2. Building diversity and cultural intelligence in the workplace is also a key success factor. Our Diversity and Inclusion manager has created incredible opportunities to educate our employees and enhance our cultural intelligence. We do this through our annual Cultural Explosion Event, Explore the AHA Career Fair — which focuses on diverse candidates, individuals with disabilities, LGBT, and veterans, as well as our on-line diversity courses offered through our Learning Management System (LMS).


When it comes time to building diversity programs for recruiting purposes, most people take the “if you build it they will come” methodology, which is often limited to adding a diversity statement on their website and hopes that diverse candidates will just storm the gates. Unfortunately, it just does not work that way. Diversity recruitment is in many people’s minds as “something we have to do” whether you are a Federal Contractor or not — rather than something ingrained in and valued by the organization.

In a recent poll conducted by DirectEmployers[1], 76% of the respondents have a diversity recruitment strategy in place. But when asked how they measured diversity, there was a wide range of responses including diversity councils, diversity scorecards, and internal metrics to Affirmative Action Plans (91%) and EE0-1 reports (77%). There is some bad news for the people who responded: You are missing the most critical point. The best answer we saw that hit the nail on the head was measuring the number of diverse candidates they actually hired.

You can have 800 diverse applicants across the candidate pool for the quarter, but if you have two hires in each of the EEO categories, that comes to a 2.5% diversity hiring ratio. Your efforts are admirable but your results need to be adjusted to get the necessary impact.  According to the survey, the biggest area of success for employers who responded was in the Professional EEO category at 91%. The proof is in the numbers (See figure 1.1). Executives were at 21%, which in every article we read is still a major area of concern. One of the biggest surprises was that companies have seen only a 10% increase in service workers. While completely befuddling, the results may not have had a lot of service companies respond to the survey.


In recruiting, our time is often unbalanced with managing projects, hiring managers, candidates, filling jobs, and managing projects. Meaningful diversity recruiting efforts often get relegated to “add on” initiative, rather than integrated into our foundation. We were faced with a choice: leave diversity dying on the vine while we’re preoccupied with the day-to-day, or get busy building a meaningful diversity recruitment offering. It was clear we'd pursue the latter, but how?

Invest in a Diversity Recruiting Specialist. Each and every day you build a business case as to why the three to five candidates you presented are the most qualified, or during budget time you justify the need to purchase a new tool such as an ATS. So why can’t you build a business case for hiring a diversity subject matter expert to help your team and company attract and retain diverse candidates? Consider these numbers:

  • Average salary of a Diversity Manager is $85-$90K plus another 10% in bonus so $98K.

  • Let’s say for simplicity Sales is your primary hiring channel and you have five entry level sales openings. Those five sales people who left brought in $250,000/salesperson. If we use a formula for daily lost revenue: annual revenue generated by the typical person in that position/220 annual working days, you will discover your group is losing $1,136 per person per day or almost $5,700 each day for all five. Anyone who tells you that is not real money – show them the numbers.

  • Now, let’s throw in the factor of time to fill. Average time to fill for each position is 45 days. Lost revenue for those 45 days is $256,500 (at $5,700 per day).

So you take off your glasses and don your SuperRecruiter cape. You make the business case to spend $98K for a Diversity Manager who could build your company a diverse candidate pipeline so you have candidates at the ready.  Back to the math formula using the same numbers we used above:

  • Your stellar new Diversity Manager has built a pipeline of 25 diverse sales candidates in the first two months by building relationships with Historical Black Colleges & Universities and campuses with large Hispanic and Asian students.

  • Your sales leader informs you they need five entry-level sales people. “No problem,” says the diversity manager and she hands you 15 of those 25 entry-level diverse sales candidates who are ready to go.

  • Over the course of 10 days you present, they interview and your time to fill is 15 days.  

  • You have just reduced your lost revenue to $85,500, saving the company $171,000.  Now start multiplying throughout the year and the dollars start adding up in savings.  Why — your Diversity Recruiting Manager has a built a candidate pipeline.

As the head of Talent Acquisition, you are adding value because you are making an impact to the bottom line. So, you ask, what is AHA doing to attract diverse candidate? Actually, quite a bit.

At AHA, we hired a Diversity Coordinator who is responsible for building relationships with our partners all over the United States, she has leveraged our multicultural markets leaders and our Diversity & Inclusion Manager to help feed content and generate discussion. Has it worked? The short answer is yes. In our leadership positions, we have seen an increase diverse candidate hires by 10%.

The toughest roles to fill are either fundraising or our sales force, and we expect our efforts will lead to an increase in diverse fundraising hires this fiscal year. How? American Heart Association | American Stroke Association is now partnering with over 40 diverse campuses across the United States to build a diverse pipeline of entry level fundraisers. This summer, we will roll out our newly designed sales training and begin to utilize our pipeline to put diverse entry level sales people into. Our thought: Fundraising as an industry is not very diverse, so why not build diversity and inclusion starting with entry-level, provide them the tools to be successful including professional development, and advance them into management roles two to three years later?

Additionally, we created a unique career fair called Explore the AHA Life Career Fair that we held in October 2014 and our second in September 2015. The focus of our fair was to educate our attendees on healthy eating, learning CPR, and many of our departments were there to conduct on-site interviews. Our career fair also featured three educational sessions on successful job searches, staying healthy during your job search, and marketing yourself through the various social channels.

Our advertising focused on attracting different races, veterans and individuals with disabilities. In 2014, Dallas Mayor Pro Tem, Monica Alonzo cut the ceremonial ribbon to welcome over 450 attendees. Of the attendees, 75% were from one of the three diverse groups and we ended up hiring six diverse candidates and two veterans from the fair. 2015’s career fair was just as successful. While our attendance was down (a 3.1% unemployment rate in the DFW area will do that), we ended up getting a higher quality of diverse candidates. To date, we have hired 10 candidates for our open positions and all are diverse. The great news is we still have ten diverse candidates in process now. This speaks to our efforts and dedication to hiring a diverse pool of candidates and that quantity of candidates is not as good as quality of candidates.  We are hoping to roll out a National Explore the AHA Life event starting this year where all of our affiliate offices have a similar job fair.

AHA also participated in a job interviewing forum at the USBLN conference that was held in Austin. We had the chance to interview five candidates who were interested in working for the American Heart Association. We have submitted three of the five candidates to specific affiliates for further consideration. One has already been hired.

Finally, in 2014, we invested in six microsites that focused on our openings and a veterans microsite through our vendor partner, Direct Employers. Direct employers is a non-profit organization who provides employers with OFCCP compliance and recruitment marketing solutions. Direct Employers’ recruitment marketing solutions group partnered with SHRM Enterprise Solutions in 2015. Since the launch of the SHRM Enterprise Solutions we added two niche career websites focusing on disability and diversity. Over the last six months, we have made significant changes to the sites that are more meaningful and focused creating content showcasing AHA’s commitment to these valuable candidate pools. We have started back-linking those sites and placing specific language in our job postings to help drive specific SEO around veterans, diversity & inclusion, and individuals with disabilities. Since making these changes, we have seen an increase in our veteran and diverse candidates by 15%. The key is back-linking and making your sites welcoming to the various diverse groups you are trying to attract.

AHA is currently investigating some additional resources to drive more traffic to these niche career sites through social. Some items we are currently using as well as some ideas for the future include:

  • Engaging in paid social media marketing.

  • Increasing unpaid social media marketing dedicated to the website.

  • Emailing hiring managers and/or company ambassadors to encourage them to share links to the career sites with friends and family. (Provide text and imagery, with call-to-action to visit sites).

  • Tapping into employees to share, especially relevant employee resource groups.

  • Encouraging the sharing of site URLs into new hire onboarding.

  • Sharing links and tagging relevant occupation and local organizations, such as student disability offices, chapters of groups like NSHMBA, BMBAA, student veteran chapters, PRSA, AMA, etc.

  • Joining active veteran, disability and diversity groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

  • Creating more human feelings by adding personal bios, photos and stories via static pages. Like the cover images on The AHA Life: Careers page.

  • Repurposing content.



  • 400% increase in diversity application to hire conversion after implementing targeted microsites

Explore #TheAHALife Career Event

  • October 2014 - 450 attendees, 50 applies, 6 hires

  • September 2015 - 120 attendees (lower unemployement rate), 80 applies, 13 hires

Diversity Partners

  • Started with a list of 340 national and local diversity partners such as Easter Seals, Veteran Organizations who help connect transition vets to opportunities, and diverse organizations such as Urban League, Hispanic, Black, and Asian Chambers across the United States in 2014 and now have 200 partners who are true partners.  

  • To date, we have received over 750 applicants from our partners and hired 35.


Like most organizations, we took a blanket approach when the OFCCP regulations changed in March 2014. We tried to do everything at once - build up our partnership database and establish microsites to drive traffic hoping the candidates would come. The strategy was overwhelming because we felt we had to be everywhere. If your company is a Federal Contractor, take it slow, and build effective relationships with your partners by visiting by phone or in person every 3 months. Our advice: Build it slowly as one size does not fit all.

We did not initially involve the business leaders and executives in assisting us in the “build” campaign. They did not understand what we were trying to do or why we needed to build up a diverse presence in the nonprofit space. Today, recruiting and the business work together. Managers, Directors, and Executives are held accountable as part of the annual review process and now more than ever they are participating in the multicultural events throughout the communities we serve.

Volunteers were not involved in diversity recruiting initiative. We have over 1 million volunteers throughout the country — doctors, philanthropists, foundations. Many of our volunteers are diverse. They were helping our fundraisers make connections. Why not recruiting? Today, our affiliate recruiters and multicultural market teams are partnering with our volunteers across the U.S. to potential candidates. Volunteer referrals as a source of hire has increased by 25% over the last year.


In the end, you will only get the results if you put the time and effort into attracting candidates who are diverse, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. The building blocks are:

  • Generating executive support from your C-Level executives and/or Board of Directors who can lead the organization to build diversity and cultural intelligence.

  • Creating impact in the diverse communities your company serves.

  • Developing realistic strategies to attract candidates.

  • Measuring your success along the way to build the business case to bring on a diversity. specialist who can come in and be a value-added resource to your diversity recruiting efforts.


SHRM Enterprise Solutions