About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 4, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 1
Nonprofits Overcome Hiring Challenges, Able to Fulfill Goals

By Mimi Bilzor
Institute for Policy Studies

In the face of concerns about a work force 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--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 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 percent vs. 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, 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 quality, commitment and salary requirements of their recruits.

Nonprofits achieved this level of satisfaction by relying mostly on fairly traditional methods-- 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 sizes, but the variations were generally muted.

The full report is posted online at


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |