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Nonprofits and The Great Resignation

Updated: Oct 28, 2021




Almost a year ago to today, I wrote a blog post about high turnover in the nonprofit sector titled The Nonprofit Sector and High Employee Turnover. At that time, I had no idea of what would come to be known as "The Great Resignation".


In that post, I talked about the most common reasons nonprofit organizations have a hard time keeping employees. The reasons ranged from compensation challenges to lack of work-life balance to compassion fatigue; all of which I've experienced in previous nonprofit jobs.


The Great Resignation, if you haven't heard of it yet, is the name of the current trend of employees exiting their jobs, en masse, for a number of reasons. A major reason that started the trend of The Great Resignation for a lot of individuals was how their employers handled the pandemic.


I've heard lots of stories that make me cringe.


So, this made me curious to examine how The Great Resignation likely exacerbated the pre-existing challenges with employee turnover in the nonprofit sector. Although there is limited quantitative data that can demonstrate the impact of employees exiting their roles, specific to nonprofits, I can definitely guarantee the nonprofit sector has been tremendously impacted for the reasons below.


The virtual world paused most nonprofits' operations, some indefinitely.


At the onset of the pandemic, when the world was forcibly shut down, a lot of nonprofits closed. Some for a long time. Some permanently. With the mass shut down and no plan or alternatives in place for employees, some nonprofits were forced to drastically downsize and a lot of individuals become unemployed overnight. Nonprofits that provide(d) direct services to the community and individuals were heavily impacted.


Technology challenges caused issues with transitioning to digital.


The emergence of covid and the quarantine challenged already technologically unadvanced organizations to have to quickly scramble to avoid discontinuity in their programs or services. This meant having to identify staff who could manage new technology processes outside of their regular work duties and also buying new equipment that may have not been budgeted for the year.


Nonprofits depending heavily on fundraising events suffered.

For nonprofits whose main source of revenue is fundraising via events, the struggle was apparent. For almost two years now, the pandemic has forced nonprofit organizations without diversified revenue streams to make drastic budgetary adjustments or figure out more creative methods to replace in-person events that would have likely earned thousands of dollars for them. Under these circumstances, nonprofit organizations are quick to eliminate employees to make room in the budget.


Unprogressive organizational cultures didn't prioritize employees' needs.

If the aforementioned didn't directly impact an organization, issues with culture across the sector continue to remain an issue, which the pandemic intensified. These pandemic-related culture issues ranged from organizations not allowing their staff members to work remotely or virtually to expecting their staff members to still interface with the public, without making any accommodations. The most predominant challenge, during the pandemic, in the nonprofit sector was leadership inability (or concern) to address their employee's mental and emotional capacity.


Thus, at the beginning of next year, I will be curious to see the data on employee turnover in the nonprofit sector. A study done by Nonprofit HR almost 2 years ago indicated that 45% of respondents stated they were leaving the nonprofit sector for good.


Imagine the feelings of those who weren't surveyed. Imagine the number of people who feel that way now.


Nonprofits are struggling and people have had enough.


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