More Nonprofit Jobs, but Retention and Recruitment Practices Lag


March 3, 2015

I know the nonprofit job market is better because a friend of mine has been applying for a new development job. She has had three interviews in about two weeks, and is seeing results from nearly every application she makes.

Plus, the just released 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, from NonprofitHR, confirms my hunch.

In fact, nonprofit hiring is exceeding the for-profit sector considerably, with half of nonprofits saying they anticipate creating new positions in 2015, while only 36 percent of for-profits say they will do so this year.

If you're not a nonprofit groupie yet, you may be surprised to learn just how large the nonprofit sector is.

The nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in the U.S. There are approximately two million nonprofit organizations* in the US that employ 10.7 million people. All of that results in more than $1.9 trillion in revenue.

Where Is the Job Growth Expected?

There are many types of jobs in nonprofit, but the hungriest for new faces right now is direct services, according to the HR survey. The expected 46 percent growth in these jobs likely means that nonprofits are attending to more people than ever. That may represent more opportunity for job seekers who have the skills to provide those services, such as nurses, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists.

On the other hand, more people to serve means extra pressure on nonprofit infrastructure and systems. Job growth in finance, administration, and operations (tied to infrastructure and capacity) is projected in this survey to grow by 22 percent.

That is good news, but is it enough to support increased demand in services?

Fundraising/development will grow at a healthy rate of 38 percent this year, according to the survey, but that is less than in 2014.

What Are the Challenges for Nonprofits in Achieving Hiring Goals?

The biggest challenges are in both recruitment and retention of staff.

 For instance only 52 percent of the surveyed organizations have a recruitment strategy, much less an adequate budget. Small nonprofits suffer the most, with 64 percent lacking a strategy, while the average recruitment budget is only $1500.

With voluntary turnover (people who choose to leave) climbing to 14 percent in 2014, retention is an obvious hole that nonprofits need to plug. Although the improving economy has allowed more people to move on in their careers, the nonprofit sector is still troubled by three persistent problems:

  • noncompetitive wages
  • lack of promotion opportunities
  • heavy workloads and insufficient staff resources

Two trends seem to exacerbate the retention problem.

First, nonprofits tend to hire new staff when creating new programs or initiatives, instead of promoting from within. And when executive level and senior positions are filled, 61 percent of the hires come from other nonprofits and another 18 percent are from outside the nonprofit sector. Job hopping is rife within the nonprofit world, because organizations are loath to groom leadership from within.

The takeaway is that 2015 may be a very good time to expand one's job search to the nonprofit sector, for nonprofit employees looking for a better opportunity to move out and up, and for nonprofit organizations to finally grapple with their recruitment and retention problems.

There is much more in this report though, so do check out the excellent infographic and the full report. There is information about using social media to recruit and suggestions about how to move forward.

*The number of nonprofits in the US actually depends on what you count. The number of registered tax-exempt nonprofits is about 1.5 million, but there are many that are not required to register with the IRS, such as very small organizations and churches. Then there are a number of non-tax-exempt nonprofits, such as chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues. GuideStar  lists over 2 million nonprofits in its database.