Nonprofit Workforce Challenges

workforceThere is a troubling cycle occurring in the nonprofit sector, and it poses challenges to the public sector’s workforce.

At our last Meet the Funders event in October one of the questions we asked the panel of foundation representatives was “Does the quality of workforce development and retention in the nonprofit sector concern funders?” Their answers indicated that it was not seen as a problem, though they offered comments about addressing the situation (read ).  Several local nonprofits have concerns though of finding, hiring and retaining good, dedicated employees. [This topic will continue to be addressed in future PCNRC posts}.

Since the PCNRC began posting local nonprofit job opportunities we’ve become more aware of the workforce needs in our community. We’ve heard from some nonprofits that there is a scarcity of applicants with a level of experience or knowledge needed for positions posted, especially in fund development and high level administration. In addition, high turnover seems to exacerbate the problem along with a low range of compensation and benefit packages.

Our community is not alone in this struggle, nor does this seem to be a new problem as reported in the 2008 study “Nonprofit Human Resource Management Challenges: Strategies and Implications for Managers” by Karabi C. Bezboruah of the University of North Texas.

Questions that arose during the study were:

  • Why is it difficult to attract workforce to nonprofit organizations?
  • Does the perceived difference in compensation level compared to for-profit organizations play a role in it?

The finding was that retention of employees was the most persistent and severe challenge to nonprofits. “Mann (2006) states that these [nonprofit] employees have a strong service orientation, seek for a chance to make a difference, and value more intrinsic work incentives than salaries and benefits. They are more attached to the organizational mission than employees in federal government and private sector employees, and demonstrate dedication to achieve the common good. Despite the public service motives, retention is a major problem in the nonprofits because of resource scarcity and burnout. “

The study goes on to offer recommendations and motivation beginning with characteristics that can lead to job satisfaction. so let’s look at what those factors are from that demographic’s perspective.

Millennial employees:

  • Shape their career concept based on their values and goals rather than organizational needs
  • Their career goals serve as the basis for their work preferences
  • They have an expectation of moving up to management positions quickly
  • Want opportunities for professional development
  • Expect access to advanced technology
  • They desire increasingly challenging tasks
  • Contributing to society in a positive way

Millennials see job satisfaction as:

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement


Millennials are looking for organizations to provide defined career development paths and relevant training opportunities. They have a greater focus on career mobility and a greater pace of career development than previous generations. Millennials want to quickly progress up the career latter within an organization offering this opportunity (Twenge, 2010). This poses direct conflict to the large number of Baby Boomers who desire to remain in the workplace after the age they qualify for social security Full Retirement Age (FRA). Supervisors must forgo the “false kindness” strategy to appease and give Millennial employees specific, timely, and relevant feedback using technology such as social media tools that may be unfamiliar to some Baby Boomer managers.

More about the Millennial workforce in a future post.

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