The pandemic brought economic shockwaves and major changes that have reverberated across the nonprofit industry. COVID-19 has introduced a whole host of new challenges, chief among them being fierce competition for talent. To overcome these workforce challenges, nonprofit organizations need bold changes and new solutions.
Nonprofit Workforce Labor Shortage
Nonprofits often face demand for services exceeding their capacity or resources. According to the National COVID-19 Community Impact Survey, 45% of nonprofits have a decreased ability to provide services. A workforce shortage survey shows about half of nonprofits have a serious number of job vacancies. At the same time, more than 75% of nonprofits have seen increased demand for their services.
While 8 out of 10 nonprofits identified salary competition as an issue, data shows nonprofit salaries typically match private-sector salaries. Labor shortage factors range from lack of childcare to a new preference for remote work.
The good news? Every factor is a valuable opportunity. Nonprofits that solve these problems can attract and retain more talent with strategies such as:
- Make sure compensation is competitive: At the very least, it should be competitive within the nonprofit sector.
- Build in flexibility: Hybrid schedules are a good start. Both Millennials and Gen Z’s see flexibility as a must-have for employers. Offer new hires the chance to work the way they want, and track performance by results seen rather than hours worked.
- Fill fundamental gaps that make it easier to work: Offer daycare and after-school help, transportation options, and mental health services.
- Look outside the normal range of applicants: Younger or inexperienced staff can be trained. Private sector employees may want a change. Contract workers can fill gaps and may convert to full-time if compensation and culture are a good fit.
55% of nonprofits report COVID-19 has caused cancellation of events, disruption of services, loss of revenue, and staff and volunteer absence. Some industries were able to pivot to virtual operations and remote work. The nature of nonprofit work does not always allow the same. Government programs helped, but many nonprofits are climbing out of a financial hole while simultaneously figuring out how to restart services and adjust operations. Here are some strategies for adjusting operations and events:
- Go virtual: Live-streamed, virtual events are now commonplace. Invest in the technical resources needed to take fundraising events online, where they’re accessible to a much wider audience with the potential for increased donations.
- Keep in touch: Social media and public relations are more important than ever—focus on traditional content marketing and media outreach.
- Hold frequent virtual meetings and smaller online events: More contact leads to more donations. Think personal and straightforward—a video interview, a Q&A session, or a few stories from volunteers.
- Record all virtual events: …and make them available online!
- Survey staff: Learn directly from your workforce about what can be done remotely and what cannot, from business operations to outreach programs to fundraising.
- Provide easy options for smaller donations: Take advantage of online payment platforms and donation buttons. Set up sales of branded gear (hat, face masks, and bags, for example).
Millennials and Gen Z have high giving rates, and they’re comfortable with online interactions and virtual events. They want their money to go to organizations with shared values and effective programs. Be transparent and share real stories to capture their interest.
Culture and Morale Issues
Nonprofit employees are stressed out and burned out. They care about what they do, and often try to compensate for lacking resources by doing even more. But the sacrifice of life balance and self-care adds up. In order to ultimately thrive and grow, nonprofits must adjust their cultures to value long-term sustainability for their staff over the urgent needs of the moment.
Women represent the majority of the nonprofit sector’s workforce, at more than 73%. Yet they also hold far fewer leadership positions and make less money than their male counterparts, and pandemic conditions disproportionately affected women—especially working women. There are still nearly two million fewer women in the labor force.
What’s difficult for women in general, is drastically worse for women of color: unemployment rates are higher, and wages are lower. In the nonprofit sector, leadership positions are embarrassingly few. In fact, all people of color are severely underrepresented in nonprofit leadership. To begin addressing some of these systemic inequalities while fostering positive cultural change:
- Define the organizational mission: Show how it’s achieved in programs, services, and organizational culture.
- Prioritize the programs and services that further the mission: Consider, if necessary, shutting down side projects and well-meant fringe efforts.
- Enact organizational policies to prevent overwork: A cap on weekly hours, required PTO, no emails on weekends, etc.
- Invest in people: Put significant effort toward increasing diversity, inclusivity, and equity among new hires, salary levels, promotions, and opportunities.
- Embrace the benefits: Cultural change will help build a sustainable organization and attract missing talent. The incoming Gen Z workforce is more likely to build value-based than income-based careers. And for most millennials and Gen Z job seekers, a diverse workplace—not just in words, but in reality–is non-negotiable.
Addressing Challenges and Opportunities with Aldrich
With so many obstacles, it can feel difficult to prioritize and find a way forward. Aldrich’s professionals are here to help you every step of the way, and enable your organization to deliver valued services to the community.
Meet the Author
Employee Benefits Consultant
Aldrich Benefits LP
Evan Cole partners with his clients to advise and assist them with their employee benefit plans, specializing in group and association plans. Prior to joining Aldrich, Evan was a top producing employee benefits representative for one of the nation’s largest life, disability, and dental carriers. He holds licenses for life and health in the states…
- Employee benefits
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