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Johns Hopkins University
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Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9920


Nonprofits Overcome Hiring Challenges
Johns Hopkins study shows nonprofits able to fulfill hiring goals

In the face of concerns about a workforce crisis in the nonprofit sector, a recent survey by the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project found that nonprofits have been surprisingly successful in recruiting professional and support staff despite significant challenges.

Nearly 85 percent of organizations reported recruiting for such positions in the preceding year, and well over 80 percent of these reported satisfaction with the qualifications and commitment of the candidates they attracted. In addition, a substantial majority also indicated satisfaction with the salary requirements of their recruits.

"The assumption that nonprofits are losing out in the competitive market for personnel does not seem to be borne out by the actual experience of nonprofit organizations, at least as revealed by this survey," noted Lester Salamon, study author and director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. "This is consistent with other data we have assembled showing that nonprofit employment has been growing much more robustly than private employment generally in this country."

The survey covered a nationwide sample of nonprofit organizations in five broad fields of nonprofit action (children and family services, community and economic development, elderly housing and services, museums, and theaters) and addressed recruitment of the nonprofit sector's professional and support staff ts front-line service workers, programmatic staff, and administrative and other support personnel.

The survey found that:

  • Of organizations that recruited professional and support personnel, 87 percent found it at least "somewhat challenging" to do so. The most frequently cited challenges were the inability to offer competitive salaries and limited opportunities for job advancement.

  • Nonprofits reported facing special challenges in recruiting diverse professional and support staff. While only 28 percent of responding organizations reported that it was "extremely challenging" to recruit qualified candidates for information technology positions, for example, this response was 49 percent for recruiting people of color for such positions; and for fund raising professionals the disparity was even greater, with 44 versus 60 percent finding it challenging.

  • Despite these challenges, the proportions of organizations that reported "significant" or "very significant" problems in recruiting or retaining professional and support personnel were more limited ith barely half of the organizations reporting problems in recruiting such personnel and only 43 percent in retaining them. And of these, the proportions citing "very significant" problems were considerably less (11 percent and 6 percent, respectively).

  • Similarly, the overwhelming majority of organizations reported satisfaction with the quality, commitment, and salary requirements of their recruits.

  • Nonprofits achieved this level of satisfaction by relying mostly on fairly traditional methods ord of mouth (96 percent), current employee referrals (93 percent), and local newspapers (80 percent), but many also experimented with approaches such as posting positions on the Web sites of other organizations (73 percent), recruiting recent interns (67 percent), and recruiting from volunteers (49 percent).

  • Some variations were apparent among organizations in different fields and of different sizes, but the variations were generally muted.

  • Copies of the full report "The Nonprofit Workforce Crisis: Real or Imagined?" are available by contacting Mimi Bilzor at (410) 516-8541 or mimi@jhu.edu. The report will be posted online on Sept. 2 at www.jhu.edu/listeningpost/news

    The Listening Post Project is a collaborative undertaking of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, the Alliance for Children and Families, the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the American Association of Museums, Lutheran Services in America, the National Council of Nonprofit Associations, Theatre Communications Group, and United Neighborhood Centers of America. Its goal is to monitor the health of the nation's nonprofit organizations and assess how nonprofits are responding to important economic and policy changes. Support for the project has been provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Surdna Foundation.

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