In the face of concerns about a work force crisis in
the nonprofit sector, a recent survey by
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
the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy
Studies. "This is consistent with other data we have
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--its front-line service
workers, programmatic staff and administrative
and other support personnel.
The survey found the following:
Of organizations that recruited
professional and support personnel, 87 percent found it at
"somewhat challenging" to do so. The most frequently cited
challenges were the inability to offer
competitive salaries, and limited opportunities for job
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 percent vs. 60 percent
finding it challenging.
Despite these challenges, the
proportions of organizations that reported "significant" or
significant" problems in recruiting or retaining
professional and support personnel were more limited,
with barely half 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
commitment and salary requirements of their recruits.
Nonprofits achieved this level of
satisfaction by relying mostly on fairly traditional
word 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
but the variations were generally muted.
The full report is posted online at