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The Ongoing Nonprofit Hiring Struggle

By September 28, 2023March 13th, 2024No Comments

In recent years, many sectors have faced challenges related to workforce shortages, but few have experienced the strain as acutely as the nonprofit sector. A new report from the National Council of Nonprofits (NCN) sheds light on the extent of this issue and underscores the consequences for communities that depend on nonprofit services.

The Findings: Nonprofits in Crisis

In their latest survey titled 2023 Nonprofit Workforce Survey Results: Communities Suffer as the Nonprofit Workforce Shortage Crisis Continues, the NCN delves deep into the issue:

  • Of the 1,600-plus nonprofits surveyed nationwide, a staggering 74.6% reported having current job vacancies.
  • In a concerning trend, 51.7% reported a rise in these vacancies in April 2023 compared to March 2020.
  • To put this in perspective, more than a quarter (28%) have had to establish longer waiting lists for their services compared to the time before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

What’s Causing the Shortage?

Several factors contribute to these vacancies:

  1. Salary competition: Nonprofits find it challenging to match the wages and benefits offered by larger corporations.
  2. Budget constraints: Tight budgets are a constant in the nonprofit sector.
  3. Stress and burnout: The mounting workload due to staff shortages leads to increased burnout.

Additionally, there’s growing concern about the future of charitable donations. A significant 70.5% of nonprofits anticipate that their charitable donations will either decrease or remain stagnant this year. This follows a marked decline in giving in 2022.

The Real-Life Implications

Tim Delaney, President & CEO of NCN, aptly summarized the broader implications: “The workforce shortages that continue to plague nonprofits have ripple effects that are deeply felt in local communities nationwide.” The inability of nonprofits to compete salary-wise with big corporations means that employees often jump ship, leaving the existing staff with a higher workload, leading to further burnout.

But the impact isn’t just on the nonprofits and their staff. As David L. Thompson, NCN’s Vice President of Public Policy, noted, “While workforce shortages in other sectors might mean longer wait times or minor inconveniences, in the nonprofit sector, it means vulnerable individuals missing out on essential, sometimes lifesaving, services.”

Creative Strategies for Nonprofits to Address Workforce Shortages

The workforce shortage in the nonprofit sector is undeniable, but to address this challenge, nonprofits should remember tried and true strategies that still work to attract and retain the talent they need.

Here’s a few basics:

Engaging Professional Recruiters:

Hiring a dedicated recruiter or partnering with a talent acquisition agency that understands the unique needs and culture of the nonprofit sector can be invaluable. Recruiters have extensive networks and tools at their disposal to find the right talent quickly. They can streamline the hiring process, pre-screen candidates, and ensure that potential hires align with the organization’s values and mission, making the investment worthwhile.

Collaborative Hiring:

Partner with other nonprofits or community-based organizations for shared positions. This model can provide full-time opportunities for professionals by splitting their time and expertise across two organizations, offering a broader experience, and ensuring organizations get the specialized talent they need.

Internship and Volunteer-to-Hire Programs:

Partner with universities and colleges to offer internships that can lead to full-time positions. Converting passionate volunteers into paid staff is another option, as they already have a deep understanding and commitment to the organization’s mission.

Remote Work and Flexible Schedules:

Offering flexible working hours and the option to work remotely can attract a diverse range of candidates, including those who might be seeking a work-life balance, caregivers, or individuals from different geographic locations.

Skill-based Volunteering:

Encourage professionals to offer their specialized skills on a voluntary basis. It can be a win-win, with nonprofits getting the expertise they need and professionals gaining a sense of fulfillment and potentially exploring future full-time roles.

Re-Engaging Retirees:

Tapping into the pool of recently retired professionals can be a gold mine. Many retirees are keen to contribute to meaningful causes in their post-retirement phase, bringing in a wealth of experience.

Alumni Networks:

Create networks of former staff and volunteers. These individuals, already familiar with the organization, can be approached for temporary roles, project-based work, or even referrals for open positions.

Storytelling and Mission-Driven Recruiting:

Position your organization’s mission at the forefront of your recruiting efforts. A compelling story can attract individuals who are looking for purpose-driven work.

Offer Continued Learning Opportunities:

While nonprofits might sometimes struggle with salary competition, they can offer other incentives, like workshops, courses, or certifications. Investing in an employee’s personal growth can be a powerful retention tool.

Networking and Community Engagement:

Regularly participating in community events, webinars, and workshops can help organizations discover potential candidates who align with their mission.

Employee Referral Programs:

Existing employees can be the best ambassadors for an organization. Offering incentives for successful referrals can ensure a stream of potential candidates who come recommended by trusted staff.

In times of workforce challenges, thinking outside the box can make a significant difference. By integrating creative strategies into their hiring practices, nonprofits can navigate the current landscape more effectively and continue to serve their communities with passion and dedication.


501(c) Services has more than 40 years of experience helping nonprofits with unemployment outsourcing, reimbursing, and HR services. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy, and we are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

Contact us today to see if your organization could benefit from our services.

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(Photo credits: Photo by CoWomen, Andrea Piacquadio)

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

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