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Why Nonprofit Professionals Leave Their Jobs--and What You Can Do About It

Lisa Tarshis
September 23, 2021

The average lifespan of a nonprofit staff member is only 16-18 months. This is concerning for so many reasons! We all know what happens when a staff member gives notice....

We have an oh sh*t moment. Then we get to work.

We try to figure out everything that person was working on. We reassign projects within our teams, likely overloading team members who are already at capacity. We figure out how to make time for hiring during our overbooked weeks. We tell our housemates not to expect much of us in the near future because we’ll be at work late and bringing work home.

We begin searching for someone to join our team, review tons of resumes, hold interviews and finally identify a candidate. And then, we have to train that person. 

This process takes months and costs our nonprofit thousands of dollars in terms of work missed, recruiting, and training. But it doesn't have to be that way! 

A recent study by Tech Impact revealed some of the top reasons folks leave their nonprofit jobs. The good news is that these are all issues we can proactively solve for:

  1. No upward mobility. If an employee does not see an opportunity for growth or pay increase, they will seek it out at another organization.
  2. Excessive workload. Nonprofits are notorious for over-filling employees’ plates, often due to a lack of staffing and resources. Feeling overwhelmed leads to burnout, which decreases employee satisfaction and capacity.  
  3. Lack of career development. Many employees want to grow and learn. Not having access to high-quality professional development can feel like your employer isn’t invested in your growth.
  4. Little reward or recognition for work. When employees feel valued, they are more likely to stay on your team. Many nonprofits don’t have systems in place to reward or recognize staff leaving it to managers who may not understand the importance of prioritizing these efforts.  
  5. Inflexible work schedules. Research shows that flexible workers achieve more, take less sick time, work longer hours and are more likely to be happy in their work than non-flexible employees. These employees are also less likely to experience high stress and burnout. However, many nonprofit organizations do not offer the flexible work schedule available at many corporations and start-ups.

With a little bit of planning, we can solve for each of these challenges and create workplaces that retain happy, thriving nonprofit employees.

Ready to address these issues in your workplace? In today's freebie, we're sharing 15 tangible tips that you can put in practice right now to retain your team members. You don’t want to miss it!