Explaining the nonprofit workforce shortage and how it's being addressed
We depend on non-profit agencies to help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide health and mental health support, and essentially help the less fortunate in society.
But those nonprofits are struggling. Low wages, low overhead, and competition from the for-profit sector combine to create workforce shortages and stress a system counted on to provide crucial services.
Sheila Bravo – President and CEO of the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement – joins us to delve into this workforce shortage and some possible solutions.
Like many workforces, the nonprofit sector is experiencing high vacancy rates.
A survey last December from the National Council of Nonprofits found about 42% of nonprofits nationwide have a vacancy rate of 20% or higher.
It is unclear exactly where Delaware stands, but Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement President and CEO Sheila Bravo says their own studies show half of the sector locally is experiencing some vacancies, often taking three months or more to fill.
“The people who are left are either having to do more work, or the organization has to have less hours of service,” Bravo says. ”So the longer that those openings remain open, the greater the impact in the community and certainly to those employees who are trying to still keep the ship afloat.”
Bravo adds Delaware is a small state with a smaller pool of talent to hire from, and people needed with degrees and certifications are even more scarce.
Plus, she says what nonprofits are paid through government contacts isn’t increasing.
“So, the gap between what nonprofits are getting paid to do government work and government services, and what they actually have to pay is getting bigger and bigger,” Bravo says. “And donations are not necessarily able to keep up the pace.”
Those issues, Bravo says, join one most nonprofits everywhere face: offering a competitive salary.
“Somebody said to me recently that they could potentially make more money working at a Dunkin Donuts than in providing the important services that their organization does. For full time staff that have years of experience they’re going to also be looking for benefit packages that are competitive to what they might be getting in another industry.”
Bravo says the cost of healthcare makes benefits packages costly for nonprofits, so they’re experimenting with things like flexible work schedules, four-day work-weeks, employee assistance and disability programs, which can also help workplace burnout.
And Bravo notes filling the gap with volunteers is not an option since many lost during the pandemic haven’t returned, leaving capacity at about 50%.