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5 Ways Not-for-Profits Can Retain Key Staff


Many in the not-for-profit (NFP) industry are fearing for their jobs. With uncertainty surrounding government funding, holding on to nervous staff can be a challenge for the best of NFPs. In this article, we describe proven tactics NFPs can implement to help retain their key people.

Proposed cuts to government funding of many Australian NFPs are making staff at these organisations understandably nervous. In a blog posted by Not-for-Profit People, the Community Council of Australia CEO, David Crosbie, is quoted as saying the uncertainty caused by the grants process has had a significant impact on the sector’s ability to recruit and retain staff. This confirms our own experience in talking to clients and candidates in the sector. Many have been affected by the proposals.

The funding cuts are deep and sense of insecurity is rife. For example, according to the Pro Bono Australia news feed, eight bodies representing 200,000 people with disabilities were defunded. These organisations have now been told they have secured ‘transition funding’ of $450,000 but only until the end of June 2015.

In this environment it’s not surprising that NFP staff are considering their futures.

Retention tactics

Faced with the prospect of funding cuts that may cause job losses and nervousness amongst remaining employees, NFPs have to consider their retention strategies and tactics. They are in no position to match the salaries on offer in the private sector. And with skill shortages emerging throughout the economy – despite a growing unemployment rate – the disparity is likely to get worse.

This means that NFP boards and managers will need to constantly remind their key staff of the other benefits of staying with the team. There are a number of advantages that the private sector generally can’t offer. These include:

  • The inherent rewards of seeing a worthwhile project through to its conclusion. Most job seekers who join NFPs do so because they care about the service their employer provides.
  • Salary sacrificing options to close the remuneration gap. These are unique to the NFP sector.
  • Working environment. Many NFPs offer a workplace that is more flexible and friendly than the traditional corporate or government environment.
  • Learning and development. The opportunity to acquire new skills either internally or by undertaking formal training is highly valued by most employees. Skills in the NFP sector are often unique.
  • Mentoring. Many people feel a heightened sense of job satisfaction when passing on their skills and experience to less experienced team members. The rewards flow in both directions.

If the worst happens, and some of your mission-critical staff do leave, all is not lost. At a time like this it is inevitable that there will be other good people looking for work. Although some NFPs will lose staff, those that present themselves as the most attractive and stable employers in the sector will have the advantage. For the most desirable organisations, there will be a talented group of job seekers to choose from when selecting replacements.

Given the scale of the funding cuts, it’s a tough call to expect boards, executives and hiring managers to retain all their best people. But inaction is not an option; it’s essential for each NFP to emphasise the positives to their staff in order to stem the flow of departures.

This is a sector-wide issue. Have you experienced it in your organisation? We invite you to join the discussion. You can tweet your comments to @MorganAustralia, connect with your consultant on LinkedIn or post a comment on the Morgan Consulting LinkedIn page.

About the Author

Belinda Stolfa is a senior recruitment consultant in Morgan’s Business Support practice. With 12 years’ recruitment experience, she has worked across the not-for-profit, property, construction, engineering, education, legal and professional services sectors.

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