Many of the unsung heroes of our area are those who work at nonprofit organizations. Day after day, you’ll find them feeding the hungry, cleaning streams, educating children, fighting for justice and standing up for victims. Their work, often unrecognized, is a key element of healthy, thriving communities.
The current global crisis and compounding issues have had a crippling effect on nonprofits. Health restrictions have caused the cancelation of in-person fundraising events and have hampered face-to-face services to individuals in need.
As COVID-19 variants rage, nonprofits are being asked to do more than ever. But another crisis has emerged: a staffing crisis.
A report by Johns Hopkins University says the nonprofit sector lost about 1.64 million jobs in the first three months of the pandemic. Since then, around 70% of those have been recovered. While that is good news, the nonprofit sector still needs 485,000 more employees to equal pre-pandemic numbers.
Each year, BKD publishes the State of the Nonprofit Sector Report. This year’s study, to be published in the spring, provides data on the nonprofit workforce. Of the more than 875 organizations in the nationwide survey, nearly all are experiencing staffing shortages. All sizes and types are in the same predicament – small organizations with annual budgets of under $250,000 to large ones with budgets over $100 million.
Public/societal benefit groups (community foundations, civil rights, community improvement, etc.) and religion-related organizations had the highest total percentage of vacancies. Health and education were next.
Many organizations have been forced to shutter programs or reduce working hours because of an inability to recruit and hire enough employees.
The nonprofit industry had a human resources issue long before the pandemic. Low pay and high turnover have plagued organizations for decades. In addition, a wave of baby boomer retirements has accelerated the number of leadership vacancies. There are several other factors contributing.
It’s no wonder executive directors struggle to devote time to this area.
In fact, leaders have been indirectly discouraged from spending time on such issues because of the antiquated idea that the best organizations allocate at least 80% of resources toward programs and 20% or less on overhead or administrative functions.
A study by Robert Morris University found only 28% of organizations have an updated leadership succession plan in place.
Nonprofit leaders, boards, foundations and business leaders must make addressing this issue a priority. Here are a few ideas:
Nonprofits are at a crucial juncture. As this region continues to grow, we need well-prepared leaders who can guide the organizations that do such important work for our community.
Dan Prater is a senior managing consultant for companies and nonprofit organizations with BKD LLP in Springfield. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the profiles of this year's honorees.