Staffing Up for Season of Giving: Nonprofits Get Creative

By Jordan Quigley on December 2, 2022 at 9:14pm

By Jordan Quigley, North American Vice President, Administrative and Customer Support Group, Robert Half

The end of the year is swiftly approaching, and we are deep into the busy season for charitable giving. Nonprofits across the country are enthusiastically marketing to maximize donations before the end of the tax year, inviting donors to support and contribute to organizations that matter most to them.

According to donorbox.org, around 31% of charitable donations are made in December alone, and 12% come in the final three days of the year.

However, charitable organizations around the country are finding it more difficult than usual to retain staff and fill vacancies — like employers across most industries. But while open jobs in the government and business sectors may cause slowdowns and lost profits, a shortage of skilled nonprofit employees can impact funding efforts that support critical services for families, communities, patients and our planet. Less funding also accelerates further staffing loss — which can create a dangerous cycle.

Competition from other employers with deeper pockets is usually the culprit. Nearly four out of five (79%) nonprofits responding to the National Council of Nonprofits’ most recent survey reported that salary competition is the main issue. Yet nonprofits cannot easily raise wages or change their compensation packages because of limited budgets and the need to minimize administrative costs.

Fortunately, the non-profit world is full of creative problem-solvers. Even with limited budgets, these organizations are finding innovative ways to attract and retain the dedicated talent they need by applying long- and short-term talent solutions strategies.

Focus on company culture and core values

People who choose a career in the nonprofit sector tend to desire meaningful work that makes a measurable difference. By extension, they want their employer to have authentic, strong core values and a supportive culture that’s as committed to serving its employees as its clients. Successful nonprofits ensure these positives are communicated clearly and often, from the candidate’s first interview and throughout their career. And they “walk the talk” every day.

Offer meaningful paid internships

Internships are a key entry point into the nonprofit sector for students and new graduates and a pipeline of future employees for the organization. But for many low-income and non-traditional students, internships can be out of reach. According to the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, 64% of students who did not enter a college internship “desired to do so but could not due to scheduling conflicts with work, insufficient pay and lack of placements in their disciplines.”

Nonprofits can bridge the gap. By targeting untapped student talent pools, enabling flexibility and offering meaningful educational assignments, they can develop a pipeline of loyal, diverse, trained employees. Students can secure employment after graduation, access a wider network and benefit from economic mobility. It’s a win-win.

Offer remote and hybrid work

Remote and hybrid work has the potential to offer a higher level of flexibility, a better work-life balance and a more tailored employee experience, which many potential employees will value more than a higher salary. This is an area where nonprofits can distinguish themselves. And in the case of fully remote positions, there is the added benefit of expanding access to a diverse range of talent across multiple geographies.

Promote loan forgiveness

Many nonprofits have the unique benefit of offering student loan forgiveness to full-time employees after a period of employment. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, established in 2007, permits Federal Direct Student Loan borrowers who make 120 payments under a qualifying repayment plan to have the remainder of their balance forgiven, tax-free.

Qualifying employers include government organizations at any level — U.S. federal, state, local or tribal, including the U.S. military — and organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment.

It is estimated that more than 1.3 million employees currently qualify for this program, and the average pay-off balance is $94,411.

Strengthen the employer brand

To attract new employees, nonprofits are launching creative and compelling employer branding campaigns that rival those of the private sector. Rather than just relying on job postings alone, they are utilizing social media, online advertising and even strategic partnerships to reach a greater audience with messages about their mission and opportunities.

Employer brand campaigns can target both passive and active job seekers and are designed to tell the story of your organization, creating a desire to be a part of its vision and mission.

Explore contract talent

All of these remedies are long-term, sustainable approaches to solving workforce gaps in the nonprofit sector, but one solution organizations can apply now is to right-size their team for the busy season using contract talent.

The Season of Giving is a great time to leverage contract professionals to fill a variety of day-to-day operational roles, such as remote and in-person customer service representatives, call center teams, administrative assistants, data entry clerks and HR professionals.

Contract talent can also help meet short-term program or humanitarian needs, write grant proposals (or fulfill grant requirements), enter donor data and help with special fundraising events. They can also cover staff vacations, family leave and extended absences any time of year.

This season, why not give your nonprofit the gift of skilled talent to help meet your charitable goals? And resolve to explore new and creative talent solutions in 2023!

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