Work in Nonprofits

The HR Council for Non Profits conducted a major quantitative survey of Canadian non-profits in 2008. From this they have prepared a report on small non-profits in our sector.

Approximately 75% of non-profits have less than ten employees and over half (53%) have less than five employees. About 168,000 people work in these small non-profits. For every 100 employees who work in small non-profits, 75 are women, half are more than 45 years old, 81 are in permanent jobs (54 f/time, 27 p/time), 88 have post-secondary education, 40 have a university degree and 36 have worked in the sector for more than 10 years.

While the survey determined that job satisfaction was high among all non-profit employees (ranked 4.25 out of 5), satisfaction was higher for small non-profits (4.5 out of 5). This relates closely to the level of commitment felt by this group, with 90% describing themselves as strongly committed to the causes their organizations supported.

The employees of these small agencies identified greater input into decision making, recognition received for their work, and workplace relationships as reasons for their higher levels of job satisfaction.

However, these same employees reported lower levels of satisfaction around opportunities for training and professional development. This may reflect concerns about either the quality of opportunities available or the lack of access. In fact, 44% said that they had no opportunities at all for professional development in the past 12 months.

One of the key challenges faced by these small non-profits is recruitment of qualified staff. Of those organizations that had undertaken staff recruitment over the past year, 43% reported difficulties in recruitment. One of the reasons cited for this is low salaries within their organizations.

The study also identified that management is a big job in small non-profits, with the executive director typically being the HR manager and fulfilling a plethora of other roles. A finding that will come as no surprise to executive directors of small organizations.

A very high percentage of small non-profit employers (93%) believed that their current team had the skills needed to meet the organization’s needs. However, both employers and employees saw an emerging need for higher skills in computers / IT, financial management, fundraising and marketing.

Employees within these organizations also cited a similar list of skills, when indicating where they personally need to build capacity. Topping the list for skills improvements was computer/web/IT.

The study concludes that these findings are important as they highlight what makes working in small non-profits appealing, as well as flagging the need to keep employees challenged and get the most out of their employment.

Excepted from Small nonprofits: A big part of our sector [Trends & Issues March 2010]

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

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