Nonprofit Workforce Shortages

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Charitable nonprofits around the country are reporting significant difficulties retaining staff and filling vacancies. What was initially considered a challenge has now become a workforce crisis in need of immediate remedy and commitment to overcome longstanding problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why It Matters

When organizations dedicated to serving the public good can’t secure the workforce to provide vital services, their communities suffer. While staffing shortages in delivery services result in longer times to receive a package, staffing shortages in direct-care services mean that families and individuals cannot access life-saving support like shelter and mental health care, either because waiting lists are weeks or months long or they must be turned away because staff is stretched thin. Nonprofits are doing their part to raise awareness of the challenge to whole communities, to collect and analyze data to identify the problem and solutions, and take action to protect our communities.

The Scope and Impact of Nonprofit Workforce Shortages Click to download report as PDF

In the fall of 2021, the networks of the National Council of Nonprofits posted an online survey to gauge the scope of the workforce shortage problems for charitable organizations and determine the impact on their abilities to advance their missions. The analysis, benefitting from responses from more than 1,000 nonprofits from all 50 states, presents the most up-to-date picture of the adverse consequences of workforce shortages. The analysis utilizes responses and comments from nonprofits nationwide to explain the causes and impacts of the nonprofit workforce shortage and propose 10 solutions to pursue in upcoming legislative sessions.

Read the Report  

Report Highlights

Scope of the Problem

The core question the survey explored was, "What is your nonprofit's current job vacancy rate?"



  • Nearly one quarter (24.2%) reported vacancies of fewer than 9 percent 
  • One in three nonprofits (33.5%) shared job vacancy rates of between 10 percent and 19 percent
  • A troubling 26.2% responded that they had job openings for 20 percent to 29 percent of their positions.
  • Another 16.1% percent reported vacancies greater than 30 percent. 

Waiting List and Reduction in Services

  • 26% of responding organizations reported having a waiting list that is more than a month long.
  • 21% of respondents acknowledged that they do not have a waiting list, but they clarified that it is because they are unable to accept new clients or referrals.
  • One in four respondents noted that the question does not apply to their operations.

Factors Affecting a Nonprofit's Ability to Recruit and Retain Staff

  • An estimated eight out of ten (79%) nonprofits identified salary competition as a factor preventing them from filling job openings.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents stated that the inability to find child care affected recruitment and retention.
  • Vaccination policies affect nearly one in five (19.2%) nonprofits.
  • Comments from respondents identified additional causes including stress and burnout.

Solutions Identified by Frontline Nonprofits

Solutions of General Application

  1. Engage Directly with Funders: embrace the need for a cultural and systemic shift in attitudes about the value of the services charitable nonprofits provide.
  2. Prioritize Equity from the Outset: intentionally listen to marginalized communities for solutions that overcome past and current barriers blocking access to services and to support for providing services.
  3. Multi-Year Agreements and Grants: provide certainty and stability for critical programs by making agreements that extend beyond a one-year budget cycle.
  4. Invest ARPA State and Local Funds: look to charitable nonprofits as partners in investing ARPA funds to secure relief, recovery, and greater impact for the public good. See the National Council of Nonprofits special report Strengthening State and Local Economies in Partnership with Nonprofits for more information.
  5. Employee Retention Tax Credit: restore the ERTC for the fourth quarter of 2021 and extend and improve the employment incentive for 2022.
  6. Student Loan Forgiveness: policymakers and funders should do more to relieve nonprofit employees from crippling burdens of student loan debt so they can remain in the sector promoting public good in their communities.

Government Grants and Contracting Reform Solutions

  1. Out-of-Date Rates: update reimbursement rates for vital services performed on behalf of governments and regularly evaluate and update the rates in order to maintain quality, promote employment stability, and secure desired outcomes.
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Data: direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide quarterly data on nonprofit employment and wages.
  3. Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs): just as governments increase their own spending to reflect costs of providing services, they must also annually adjust grants and contracts to cover rising costs of living and actual cost

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