How Is Your Nonprofit Board Adjusting To “The Great Resignation”?

How Is Your Nonprofit Board Adjusting To “The Great Resignation”?

By: Eugene Fram                Free Digital Image

An article in The New York Times (12/23/2021) reports, In Louisville Ky, nonprofit groups are losing social workers to better-paying jobs at Walmart and McDonalds.  *  With 34.5 million American job resignations reported by, August 31, 2021, it’s reasonable to estimate that by the end of 2021 about 46 million Americans will have left their current jobs during the past year. This is about 25% of the American work force. ** The movement has been named “The Great Resignation.”      

Reasons for change range widely.  Beyond salary, some families may have found living on one salary acceptable, others may have moved to rural areas for quieter living, still others may have used a lay-off bonus to have time to get away from an authoritarian boss. ***          

It appears this robust employment turnover will continue. As a result, nonprofit boards, within their overviewing responsibilities, must focus on recruiting and retaining organization talent, like few nonprofit boards have done in the past.

Following are suggestions that nonprofit boards may want to consider in helping boards and managements to address these challenges.

  • Schedule Flexibility:  Where possible, allow all management and staff to feel free to set working schedules that meet professional standards and personal needs—MD visits, attend school plays etc.

Nonprofits that can offer this employment feature may be able to hire some very capable people.

For example, a small human services nonprofit hired a millennial age person with business work experiences and two degrees from MIT.  The nonprofit’s mission attracted his interest.  An added benefit was the flexible work schedule that allowed him to participate in his family childcare.

As nonprofits start to repopulate their offices and other fixed facilities, some staff may want to permanently work from home.  Boards, and managements now may want to develop policies that cover such situations.  In my opinion, it will require a mature ED to equitably implement the policy. 

  • Vetting new board members, management personnel and staff:  Traditionally, nonprofits seek board candidates from family, friends and colleagues.  Unfortunately, they don’t take the time to seek persons with hard-to-find skills such as leadership, critical thinking, and strategic planning abilities. These are the types of abilities in board members, management and staff personnel that allow a nonprofit to be sustainable over the long-term, 15 years or more.

The bylaws usually restrict the board to hiring one person-the ED/CEO.  The ED/CEO should have “A” level characteristics, as defined by the job description.  However sometimes boards compromise and hire a “C” level person who in turn engages “C” level persons for management and staff.  The organization can then exist in a lackluster manner for years without reaching its full potential for client service.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion.   These have been board overview issues for a long time.  Board members need to make sure they don’t get lost by the churn created by “The Great Resignation.”  ***
  • The ED/CEO has a below market salary:  Nonprofit boards may appoint an internal candidate to the ED/CEO position to avoid incurring moving expenses and then pay the person a salary below the market rate via a modest salary increment. 

This will tend to keep salaries for those working for him/h at below market rates.   It can be an impediment to recruiting and retaining capable staff, except for those who are substantially dedicated to the mission and salary is not one of their primary employment issues. (This not to say that an internal ED/CO who starts at the “C” level cannot rise to the “A” level over time.  One ED/CEO I observed made the change, but he took years to understand how he should delegate managerial tasks.)

The pandemic and related movements have shown that, beyond salary requirements, large groups of people are rethinking where and how to work.  Nonprofit boards and managements need to factor these changes into their recruitment and retention planning.   ***   

 * https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/business/economy/nonprofit-jobs-wages.html

**https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/14/1-in-4-workers-quit-their-job-this-year-according-to-new-report.html

*** https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/great-attrition-or-great-attraction-the-choice-is-yours?hdpid=fa5f295d-22d1-4d18-a368-6ce9d5d48c7f&hctky=1801797&hlkid=1d14f05430d648d1a41bdd864d18daea

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