Non-Profit Employment Trends


Recently, I came across a 2013 study by Nonprofit HR Solutions and the Improve Group. I thought the findings important enough to incorporate in whole into an article because non-profit leaders and management should be aware of where the industry is going with regard to employment. Although the percentages may be somewhat different in 2014 leading into 2015, many of the issues raised are still relevant to organizations. Things, typically, don’t change significantly from one year to the next across an industry. Below, you will find the findings of the “Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey” report verbatim.

  • Nonprofits are planning for growth. In addition to 40% of nonprofits indicating their staff size increased in 2012, 44% of nonprofits plan to create positions in the upcoming year. This percentage has steadily increased over time, from 33% in 2011 and 43% in 2012. Furthermore, only 7% of nonprofits surveyed indicated that they plan to eliminate positions in the coming year.
  • Turnover rates are expected to remain steady. Eighty-seven percent of nonprofits reported that they do not anticipate their overall turnover rate to increase in the coming year, the same percent as in the 2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey. When analyzed by turnover area, nonprofits anticipate turnover through retirements and voluntary resignations to remain steady this year compared to last year. However, they anticipate a continued, slight rise in involuntary terminations. Two years ago, only 2% of organizations anticipated turnover to increase due to involuntary terminations, compared to 5% last year and 7% this year.
  • Nonprofits are not prepared for leadership succession. Sixty-nine percent of nonprofits surveyed reported not having a formal succession plan for senior leadership. As the baby boom generation of nonprofit leaders retire, the lack of a formal succession plan may endanger nonprofits’ ability to effectively prepare for leadership transition and put organizational sustainability at risk.
  • The majority of nonprofits lack formal retention strategies. The vast majority of nonprofits surveyed (90%) do not have a formal strategy for retaining staff despite many indicating that staff retention is an organizational challenge. Interestingly, according to survey respondents, the top three functional areas experiencing the most growth are also the top three functional areas experiencing the greatest challenges with retention (direct services, program management/support, and fundraising/development, respectively). As such, it may be especially beneficial to focus efforts on retaining these staff members.
  • Social networking sites are continuing to grow in popularity as recruitment tools in the nonprofit sector. Survey data show that formal and informal networking currently remains the most popular and effective recruiting methods of nonprofits. However, the use of social networking sites—in particular LinkedIn and Facebook—is growing rapidly. Compared to last year’s Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, respondents reported a 25% increase in usage of LinkedIn and a 30% increase in usage of Facebook. Despite the growth in popularity, the impact from using social networking sites as recruiting tools did not grow, nor did nonprofits’ overall satisfaction with social networking sites. Nevertheless, since only one-fifth of organizations reported having a formal recruitment budget, websites and social networking sites may be a low-cost option for advertising open positions. Due to the growing popularity and ease of access to these websites, this may be an area where nonprofits could grow their recruitment outreach in order to attract a more diverse candidate pool.
  • Nonprofits continue to struggle with workforce diversity and inclusion. While the majority of nonprofits surveyed indicated that gender, age, and ethnic and cultural diversity are important to their organization, many still face challenges in ensuring a diverse workforce. The greatest diversity and inclusion challenge that organizations reported was retaining staff under the age of 30 (38%, up from 30% last year), followed by having their staff reflect the composition of the communities they serve (32%, down from 35% last year), and balancing ethnic and cultural diversity (26%, down from 30% last year).
  • New hiring practices indicate an effort by nonprofits to avoid employee burnout. Over the past three years, responses to the survey indicate that the percent of organizations hiring new staff to support new programs or initiatives has risen (from 29% in 2010 to 37% in 2013) while the percent of organizations using current staff has declined (from 57% in 2010 to 48% in 2013). This finding may reflect an increase in awareness among nonprofit leaders that their staff has reached capacity and that new initiatives require new hires.

In subsequent posts, I will follow-up with helpful strategies to address some of the aforementioned issues as outlined in the report.

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Posted: November 12, 2014

© 2014 Linda N. Spencer and “Living For Purpose” all rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda N. Spencer and “Living For Purpose” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




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