Why Do Nonprofit Employees Quit – Part 1

posted on February 13, 2019

There are about 1.5 million nonprofit organizations throughout our nation, and so many of them are small organizations. For years, there have been cuts in government funding to charitable causes, especially after the 2008 recession. Additionally, nonprofits have experienced a drop in fundraising dollars after the tax changes that were written into law late in 2017, affecting donors in 2018. With people filing their tax returns by April 15th of this year, we will have a better understanding of the repercussion for nonprofits because of the increase in the standard deduction, which affects charitable giving as it relates to taxation. Since the vast majority of Americans will no longer be itemizing their taxes, a drop in fundraising is expected across the industry, or within many charitable organizations.

All of this only adds to the need for nonprofits to make sure they retain their best employees because turnover costs nonprofits more money than if they maintain staff. It’s no secret that employee turn-over is considered an epidemic in the nonprofit sector, with 91 percent of nonprofits saying that turn-over is the most significant challenge that they face within their organizations.

We’ll explore what we find as the top 5 reasons nonprofit employees quit their nonprofit teams. In our next post later this month, we will focus on the proven things you can implement to improve on the staff turn-over, therefore lowering your expenses and increasing efficiencies at your organization.

  1. Money – The fact that salaries tops the list of reasons why employees are leaving nonprofits shouldn’t surprise you. Unfortunately, staff members at charitable organizations are typically paid less than those who are doing similar work in the for-profit sector. For many years there has been a call by philanthropic leaders to pay their employees competitive wages.
  1. Excess work – Nonprofits have to do a lot with less, but if you take a look at one of the biggest complaints in the industry it’s that team members are almost “expected” to continually go above and beyond for the cause. Meaning, there’s often an unspoken expectation for having to work weekends or late nights to get the job done, particularly around events, and usually, this extra work goes unpaid.
  1. Leadership – Many nonprofit leaders, including board members, care very much about a particular cause, but they seem to manage more than lead. Leadership necessitates qualities that motivate and inspire others, which includes vision. In a world with immense changes happening from year to year, employees want––and expect––to see creative, robust, innovative and visionary leadership.
  1. Communication – Employees at nonprofits want clear and transparent communications. Nonprofit are busy, but many managers have to understand that one of the most critical elements toward accomplishing their missions is the team members employed within the organization. Charities need to step up their internal communication efforts to keep everyone heading in the same direction as a cohesive team. 
  1. Mobility – People are intrinsically social beings. People want to be part of something. Many nonprofit organizations don’t have the capacity or wherewithal to grow to scale and remain as small mom and pop organizations. Workers, particularly early in their careers, want movement and to have the opportunity to develop and grow within an organization to other jobs and responsibilities.

Nonprofits provide necessary services to people and causes in need, but we live in a world that is much more fast-paced than it was even five years ago. With the rise of technology and exceedingly global and straightforward communication through social media, it’s very easy for people to want and expect more from the organizations where they work.

Stay tuned for more on this topic. Later in the month, we’ll next explore how you can address these 5 challenges in turn-over, even if you’re a small charity with limited resources.


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