How Can Nonprofits Benefit from The Great Resignation?

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, over 40% of people are considering leaving their jobs in the next year. There is a range of reasons people blame for this trend. Whether you believe people don’t want to work because unemployment pays too much, or if you believe employees finally understand their power, the reality…

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How Can Nonprofits Benefit from The Great Resignation?

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, over 40% of people are considering leaving their jobs in the next year. There is a range of reasons people blame for this trend. Whether you believe people don’t want to work because unemployment pays too much, or if you believe employees finally understand their power, the reality is many people have already left their jobs.

As corporations stress about the loss of employees, other organizations can find ways to benefit from this employee flight. Nonprofits have the chance to gain high-quality employees looking for meaningful work. This article is about how the pandemic affected nonprofits and what steps they can take to hold onto and gain new employees.

  1. Why Are People Leaving?
  2. How Did the Pandemic Affect Nonprofits?
  3. 5 Steps Nonprofits Can Take

Why Are People Leaving?

the great resignation

When asked why people left their jobs, workers mentioned work-life balance, better compensation, and looking for something new. On the surface, these explanations may seem different, but remote work and the growth of freelance opportunities have moved workers’ dreams of all three within their reach.

These concerns are not new. The pandemic just gave workers the chance and time to take a deeper look at their work and life expectations. People have always wanted their work to mean something, and millennials have focused on this ideal for years.

In 2019, a survey by Olivet Nazarene University found that 90% of millennials said it was either somewhat or very important that their work has a positive impact on the world. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. The majority of those quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation are from this generation.

An Eagle Hill Consulting survey in May 2021 found that 36% of millennials were planning to look for a new job with a different employer once the pandemic is over. Since millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, this could have a powerful impact on our economy.

The pandemic changed people’s perspectives and reinforced millennials’ interest in finding work that makes a difference. Stimulus payments and remote work opportunities have allowed many workers to find better jobs or start their own businesses.

1. Remote work

Remote work was once difficult to find. Since the pandemic, remote work has become a new normal in office life. The pandemic forced companies to think outside the box and meet their goals while keeping their employees safe.

87% of workers who have been working from home over the last year want to continue working remotely at least one day a week. Remote work is not for everyone, but remote work during the pandemic has highlighted workers’ needs for flexibility in their schedules. The Prudential’s Road to Resilience Survey further broke down what workers were looking for in new jobs. Flexibility is one of the primary reasons people are leaving. The same survey found that those looking for flexible work want flexible work schedules, work-life balance, mobility opportunities, or remote-work options.

2. Freelance work

Younger workers and women are more likely to want remote positions. Sometimes this is due to being the caretaker for their family. Others want to find work they can do while building their own companies.

Freelance is a fast-growing industry. Today there are 59 million freelancers in the US. In 2014, that number was only 53 million. Technological advancements and more freelance opportunities have helped increase this number.

How did the Pandemic Affect Nonprofits?

nonprofit resignation

The pandemic had a huge impact on nonprofits across the US. According to a study done by Johns Hopkins University, nonprofits employed 930,000 fewer workers in February 2021 than a year earlier. Arts, entertainment, and recreation greatly suffered during the pandemic, but today healthcare, education, and social assistance industries are desperate for employees. Cuts to nonprofit budgets remain a significant concern.

During the pandemic, nonprofits had to find ways to work with less staff and fewer resources. Study shows that in 2020, the demand for services increased by 60% but the ability to provide it decreased by 37%. The reason being that the staff level remained constant. So naturally, there was a rise in the need for resources. It is still somewhat in place because the pandemic isn’t gone yet. The demand is persistent.

Another crucial aspect of the pandemic was that online fundraising became vital to raise funds. The sudden whip of remote working came with its share of pros and cons. Not many volunteers and staff could come out to be present on the ground. Nonprofits had to provide more training and change government structures and HR practices.

Today, nonprofits are looking for professionals to fill almost every role, but they are mainly looking for medical, technology, tax, and fundraising experts. With cuts to budgets, nonprofits may not be able to afford all of these professionals on a full-time basis. But if they are creative and are able to bring effectiveness to the mission, they may be able to offer these experts exactly what they are looking for.

5 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Benefit from the Situation

The Great Resignation may sound worrisome, but nonprofits can take advantage of this exodus of professionals. Nonprofits willing to step outside their comfort zone and continue to look at new ways to use staff and volunteers may find the high-quality staff at affordable prices.

1. Offer flexibility

Nonprofits may feel like their budget gets in the way of hiring qualified professionals, but the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to new opportunities where nonprofits can take advantage. Flexibility is a primary concern for many workers, especially women and younger individuals. These groups are also the ones who have historically flocked to nonprofit work.

Many women are concerned about finding childcare that meets their needs. During the pandemic, this has been an enormous problem because of school shutdowns and obvious health issues. Female workforce participation has dropped to the lowest level since 1988. Many mothers have stepped out of the workforce entirely, but not all want to stay that way.

If you can offer a meaningful work experience along with the benefit of a work-life balance, many young people and women would want to join your workforce. Truth be told, even men prefer the flexibility of spending time with family while working these days. Therefore, target the right people, analyze their concerns, and benefit from the situation.

nonprofit employees

Not every job needs in-office hours – go remote

Thanks to changes in technology, many roles within a nonprofit do not require in-office hours to get the job done. This is especially true for technology, tax, and fundraising positions.

Leverage the skillsets of part-time & freelance workers

It may have been true in the past that quality workers did not want part-time jobs. Today that is not necessarily the case. Freelance is a growing industry, but many worry about insecurity. Many freelancers will jump at the opportunity to develop their skills while bringing in a regular paycheck. Nonprofits willing to work with remote, part-time employees and freelancers will have access to high-skilled workers at reasonable costs. The fact that these professionals need little training is an added benefit.

Nonprofits may assume roles in fundraising, and even tax preparation can be done by volunteers, but you get what you pay for. Volunteers cannot be expected to get work done on the nonprofit’s schedule. There is also little to no recourse for volunteers doing a less than stellar job. Freelance professionals or part-time staff should be part of your team, and you can expect them to do the job professionally.

2. Provide access to technology

nonprofit employees

Zoom and other online meeting apps have become essential for remote work. Workers are expected to have their own computer and reliable internet access. As remote work has become the norm for office staff and schools, there has been an obvious split between those who have the means and those who don’t.

Workers and students who cannot afford their own office and work-ready technology are being lost in this new remote world.

Nonprofits have less room in their budget than most corporations, but they do have access to technology grants that can offer access to fundraising and other marketing technology. With these grants, nonprofits can supply staff with tech needs from companies like Techsoup.

3. Focus on communication

Belay has been around since 2010. They connect freelance virtual assistants and bookkeepers with companies. Their success has been possible because of their focus on communication and clear and understandable practices for all to follow.

Provide training

One of the best practices Belay expects all their freelancers to follow is to respond to all emails or calls from a company within two hours during regular business hours. This allows companies to get quick feedback but does not require freelancers to be tied to their computers.

Transparent practices like this one keep all parties on the same page. Belay works on the assumption that they have hired skilled professionals for their virtual assistant and bookkeeping positions. Training for freelancers focuses more on how they are expected to interact with companies. Those same companies also receive similar training on how to interact with the freelancer.

Training with companies like Belay is clear and easily accessible. All details are available online. Each virtual assistant and company are also given a Belay Client Success Consultant to help work out any issues that may evolve between the two parties.

Nonprofits can follow many of the practices perfected by companies like Belay. When working with remote or freelance workers, nonprofits HR offices should include the following in their training:

  • Manager or coordinator to work with directly
  • Org chart with contact information for all staff and board members
  • Organization Details (including mission, history, beneficiaries)
  • Role expectations
  • Weekly schedule and tasks
  • Website communication portals
  • Online career development courses

Pro tip: Make sure all training material is mobile-friendly. More and more people use their phones for just about everything. When sending anything to your remote workers, ensure all can access it with mobile devices.

nonprofit employees

Regular feedback to show appreciation

Everyone likes their work to be acknowledged. Companies and nonprofits have relied far too long on annual reviews to give feedback to their employees. Annual reports should not be discontinued, but employee feedback done on a more regular basis can help build a stronger relationship and encourage employees to continue providing their best.

Pro tip: Nonprofits are often at a loss to what they can post on social media. Your organization can kill two birds with one stone by sharing staff accomplishments online. These posts will show your appreciation for employee successes and give supporters an inside look at who they are trusting with their money.

4. Build and strengthen connections

When asked by Prudential about the most challenging part of remote work, 39% of those surveyed said socializing with co-workers was the most difficult. Many people have missed the camaraderie they had with co-workers before the pandemic. Since online meetings have become the norm, many workers have had difficulty building work relationships. This is especially true for new employees.

Nonprofits are once again in a unique position to address this problem. Nonprofit fundraising staff has built relationships with donors with who they interact on a sporadic basis. Your fundraising staff has learned how to keep communication open and build meaningful relationships with your donors through several touchpoints. Nonprofit HR and management can learn from these fundraising professionals.

nonprofit remote work


In-person fundraising events will come back someday. When that time comes, nonprofit management can take the opportunity to invite staff to attend these events as guests. You can even ask staff to share their stories and work with donors.

In-person meetups

If your remote staff is located nearby, your nonprofit can invite staff to work dinners. Invite staff to a local restaurant and let them meet each other outside of work. If your remote staff is spread out across the country, you may need to hold a special thank you event for staff and volunteers. The money for this event can greatly benefit the organization in the long run.

Website portals and social media apps

Remember, you have hired professionals. You should be able to trust them to connect when necessary. Your organization’s role is to make this interaction accessible to all staff. You can create a website portal where staff is free to ask the entire staff questions or send messages directly to an individual. You can also create a Facebook group and ask staff to join and use it as a communication tool to keep in touch.

5. Develop professional growth opportunities

nonprofit employees

Once again, nonprofits have a unique opportunity to meet the desire workers have to learn something new. Nonprofits are used to working on a limited budget. That means staff often must take on projects where they have no expertise. While this can feel daunting to some, those employees who want to learn a new skill or increase their knowledge will feel challenged and have less desire to find someplace new.

The following steps are essential when offering growth opportunities to staff:

  • Offer online skills courses for those willing to take on a project outside their comfort zone.
  • Keep communication open and give them a single contact to ask questions
  • Let employees switch roles or take on an extra role if they show genuine interest
  • Acknowledge their accomplishments and hard work
  • Listen to and appreciate their suggestions. Let them step up the ladder as they grow.
  • Continue to give them more challenges if they have the keenness

Pro tip: Volunteers are a crucial part of nonprofit organizations. While it is easy to ignore them when you do not need them for an event, it is vital to keep communication open with them throughout the year. Dedicate a section of your HR plan for your volunteer program. Remember they may have skills that your existing employees can benefit from. You can encourage your volunteers to conduct specific classes and train employees. Find ways to develop one-time volunteers into long-term volunteers and potentially board members.


nonprofit hiring

With a few steps and a willingness to think outside the box, nonprofits can use their supposed weaknesses to their advantage. Flexibility, meaningful work, and career development are the new expectations a significant amount of workers desire. Nonprofits can offer all three with a few simple changes to their HR practices. As more employees flock to remote and freelance work, nonprofits can find highly skilled workers for affordable prices.

Nonprofits are always looking for more resources to help them meet their fundraising goals. Donorbox provides weekly tips and tricks for your fundraising, marketing, accounting, and administrative employees. If your organization needs an online donation processor that is both affordable and customizable, visit our website to learn more about our features.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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