Letter from the Executive Director

Member Survey: Workforce Challenges Persisting Into 2023

For over a year now, our members—and indeed, nonprofits across the United States—have been dealing with a persistent and restrictive pair of challenges: A workforce shortage that is making it difficult for agencies to find or retain the people they need to deliver services, and uncertain revenue streams heading into 2023 as American Rescue Plan dollars begin to dry up.

We have been attempting to keep our finger on the pulse of the situation through regular engagement with our CEOs and Executive Directors, including administration of a “state of the sector” survey this summer. From 89 responding agencies, there were a whopping 1,943 unfilled job postings. Only one of the respondents said they weren’t having workforce issues. Furthermore, half of respondents weren’t certain that they would have enough revenue in 2023 to meet client needs.

In October, we distributed another survey that garnered responses from 62 agencies.

  • Thirty-two percent of respondents said they would not have the revenue they needed in 2023, with another 29% offering an answer that amounted to, “Maybe.”
  • There were 754 unfilled jobs from that smaller group of respondents. Agencies also reported that it was taking between 1 and 3 months to fill most roles, and (much) longer to fill executive positions. And even if agencies are able to make hires, many employees are leaving within a year.

These continued workforce challenges are creating a greater burden on remaining staff members, and also restricting the ability of agencies to meet community needs.

As one nonprofit elaborated: “Salary levels are a significant challenge. We have had staff poached by private employers we’ve assisted with talent needs, offering 2-3 times what we can pay. Most of our funding is from grants, and our funders continue to provide flat funding while costs and the hiring environment primarily due to flat funding. We can’t continue to do more with less. We’re having to reduce staff on grants, which means we have to reduce outcomes.”

Given all of the above, it’s worth noting that turnover issues haven’t been exclusive to non-executive positions. Since February 2020, there has been or is about to be change in leadership at 49 of our member agencies. As this turnover has occurred, I’ve observed that the leadership of the sector is diversifying, with the sector netting eight more leaders of color during this timespan.

Lastly, we asked our agencies what gave them hope for the future. The answers were encouraging, in spite of the challenges ahead.

This was the most illustrative answer: “What gives me hope? The incredible commitment and spirit of our human service workforce, who are unfaltering in their drive to do good in their communities. If we can take care of them, they take care of all of us.”

So let us take care of one another in the year ahead, and let us hope—no, ensure—that 2023 is the turning point toward a smoother and better decade for all of us.