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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 8, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 2
Report: Charities Targeting Millennial Generation Work Force

By Mimi Belzor
Institute for Policy Studies

America's nonprofit organizations are focusing on their missions to attract and retain the next generation of employees, according to a report released last week by the Johns Hopkins University Nonprofit Listening Post Project.

By emphasizing that the nonprofit workplace can offer a greater sense of personal fulfillment and flexibility compared to many jobs in the for-profit world, nonprofit practitioners are finding it possible to respond to the staff recruitment and retention challenges they are facing, according to the participants in a roundtable convened by Johns Hopkins researchers. "Our participants' experiences show that offering staff a life of meaning can be a powerful tool for recruitment that appeals to both millennials and baby boomers," said Lester M. Salamon, report author and director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. Other techniques being used to attract millennials involve shifting recruitment efforts to the Internet and exploring ways to offset student loan obligations.

Appealing to the millennial generation is one of four key work force recruitment and retention strategies identified by the nonprofit practitioners and other work force experts participating in the roundtable, which was convened to follow up on a prior survey on nonprofit work force challenges. The other strategies are:

♦ Selling the "context"ัthe physical environment, the work environment and, particularly, the "mission." Noted one roundtable participant: "We give our employees and recruits numerous opportunities to hear about the organization's values and discuss whether we are living up to them. This has made a huge difference for us in attracting and retaining a work force."

♦ Approaching recruitment proactively. Given the lack of knowledge young people have about nonprofits, organizations are actively reaching out to potential recruits. One organization created a "next generation leadership council" of young professionals in their 20s and 30s that has resulted in participants becoming board members and donors, as well as bringing their friends to the organization. Another reported that its most successful recruitment and retention activity is its formal internship program, with about 60 percent of its interns being hired as staff each year.

♦ Redefining work and the work environment. Organizations are redesigning benefit packages to adjust to new family structures, offering flexible working hours and utilizing focus groups to stay attuned to worker concerns.

Roundtable participants also identified some additional steps that are needed to allow nonprofits to meet the work force recruitment and retention challenges they face. These include greater nonprofit recognition of the need to staff, and invest in, human resource departments to be more effective in recruitment and retention; improved programs to offer relief to debt-burdened recent college graduates, possibly with the help of public debt-forgiveness programs; and special efforts to reach out to diverse communities in staff recruitment.

The full text of the report is available online at


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