The “Great Resignation” may no longer be making headlines, but employee retention and recruitment remains a challenge across sectors. Nonprofits are particularly impacted due to limited resources for providing competitive wages and benefits, especially during times of wage inflation and low unemployment. While wages remain a top issue for nonprofit workers, they also cite lack of access to childcare, burnout and lack of flexibility among reasons for leaving their nonprofit job. Fortunately, there are several things even the most resource-limited organizations can do to support a healthy culture, retain staff and attract talent. 

Benchmark Salaries

In a competitive job market, it is important for organizations to offer competitive salaries and benefits. Nonprofit salaries range widely based on role, location and organizational budget. Research what other similarly sized organizations in your region are paying staff and which benefits they offer. Sometimes this data can be found in an organization’s 990 (Schedule J) or through salary reporting companies. If your salaries are significantly out of line with the market, it will be challenging to attract and retain staff. Work with your board and leadership to develop a plan to align your compensation structure with the market. It may take time—even years—to allocate funding, but few organizations can run well without the right team in place. For the short term, consider one-time bonuses.

Boost Benefit Packages

Boosting benefit packages can be an attainable, cost-effective solution for nonprofits in attracting and retaining staff. Health insurance—including vision and dental—Paid Time Off (PTO) and 401(k)s are standard offerings, even in the nonprofit sector. Generous PTO and flexible work arrangements have proven extremely attractive to employees. Most nonprofit survey respondents1 offered paid holidays, paid sick and/or vacation days; about a third offered paid parental leave; and three fourths offered paid bereavement time. For nonprofits that are unable to offer a remote work option, consider free onsite parking, fuel or public transportation stipends or additional PTO.

60% of nonprofits offer medical insurance, 40% offer dental, 80% offer a retirement plan, and 95% offer basic life insurance.1

Broaden Your Candidate Pool 

If you are struggling to find strong candidates, consider applicants without direct nonprofit experience, but strong transferable skills. For example, someone with sales or marketing experience may be well suited for a fundraising role. Many organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits, are involved in second chance hiring, recognizing that the estimated 70 million Americans2 with criminal records are a massive pool of untapped talent. In addition to quality workers, the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit2 gives employers a tax credit for hiring ex-felons, and nonprofits who serve individuals impacted by the incarceration system may benefit from having employees with lived experience. The Second Chance Business Coalition offer resources for organizations that want to learn more about second chance hiring.

Second Chance Hiring
81% of business leaders reported that individuals with a criminal record perform the same or better than employees without a record.3

Source: PPI 2022 Nonprofit Employee Benefits Surve

Consider outsourcing roles such as Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance. For example, PNC Institutional Asset Management® offers an Outsourced Chief Investment Officer service for nonprofits who don’t have the budget or need for a full-time, in-house investment advisor. Clients can benefit from a suite of services at a fraction of the price.

Educate, Develop and Train

Training and education are appealing, especially for younger workers aiming to build their skills. Some nonprofits have attracted talent by offering education stipends and on-the-job experience. If you don’t have the budget for formal training or tuition reimbursement, consider an employee book club, a brown bag lunch series where employees share their skills with their peers, or a job-shadowing program. Not only is this an attractive benefit, but it also strengthens the skills on your team. 

Foster a Healthy Culture

While many nonprofit workers are willing to accept below-market pay for a mission that inspires them, burnout is a common issue for nonprofit staff. Community needs are high, and the jobs can often be emotionally draining. Managers must take time to assess and ask employees for input on their job descriptions, expectations and goals set for their teams. 

Culture Checklist

Does my staff have an opportunity to provide impact on their roles and the direction of the organization? Do we have a culture of feedback and psychological safety that makes them feel comfortable doing so? 
Does my staff have accurate job descriptions that align with their day-to-day responsibilities and their skills? Would they agree with my answer? Does my staff have realistic goals and expectations? Would they agree with my answer?
Do we have a culture of inclusion and belonging, especially for BIPOC, LGBTQ and disabled employees? Do we have diverse representation at the decision-making table? Are my employees using their PTO? Are they able to disconnect completely from work regularly without having to check email or be ‘on call’?
Has a manager discussed career advancement with each of their team members? If you answered “no” or “I don’t know” to any of the above, you may be at risk of losing employees. While praise, appreciation and pizza parties are nice, they will not combat an unhealthy corporate culture.


Succession Planning

Even with a well-executed recruitment and retention plan, some turnover is part of normal operations as employees move on to new opportunities or retire. It’s important to be thoughtful and plan for these vacancies, starting with your most critical employees. While succession planning is common for executive-level employees, think about your office manager or bookkeeper departing suddenly. Be sure there is cross-training for all levels of work. Multiple employees should have access to appropriate files and be trained on daily operations.

Recruiting, retention and succession planning have always been important parts of an organization’s operations, but today’s ever-changing markets and shifting workforce have shown the importance of having a strategic plan in place. With a bit of foresight and planning, even the leanest nonprofits can attract and retain a productive, happy staff. 

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