December 16, 2021

The Scope and Impact of Nonprofit Workforce Shortages in Utah

UPDATED ANALYSIS: The Scope and Impact of Nonprofit Workforce Shortages in Utah 

Source: The National Council of Nonprofits' "Survey on Nonprofit Workforce Shortage"


Job Vacancies: Among nonprofits responding to the question “What is your nonprofit’s current job vacancy rate?,” nearly one in four (38%) reported vacancies of between zero and 9 percent. Nearly one in five nonprofits (19%) shared job vacancy rates of between 10% and 19%. Another 29%* reported vacancies greater than 30 percent. 

Causes of the job vacancies were clear to survey respondents. Eight out of 10 nonprofits (82%) identified salary competition as a factor preventing them from filling job openings. Nearly one in ten (12%) stated that the inability to find child care affected recruitment and retention. Vaccination policies affect 6% of respondents. Comments from nonprofits identified seven more causes of workforce shortages, ranging from budget shortfalls to burnout in their field.  

Relief Programs: Nonprofits participating in the survey reported accessing various relief programs during the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program loans were nearly universally (76%) secured; followed by access to state relief and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds (24% each). Importantly for current public policy debates, 15% of responding nonprofits reported having claimed the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). 

Solutions: Some of the solutions to the job vacancy challenges identified by survey participants are relevant to all types of funders – public and private alike – such as adopting equity from the outset of reforms and multi-year agreements. Regarding challenges arising from government grants and contracts, nonprofits called for governments to update reimbursement rates and recognition and payment of indirect cost rates.  

 *Revised 1/7/2022

Key Findings 

Scope of the Problem  

The core question the survey sought to explore was, “What is your nonprofit’s current job vacancy rate?” nearly one in four (38%) reported vacancies of between zero and 9 percent. Nearly one in five nonprofits (19%) shared job vacancy rates of between 10% and 19%. Another 29%** percent reported vacancies greater than 30 percent. 

Impact on the People and Communities Served 

Data points without context are merely statistics on a page. The survey asked several additional questions and sought comments from frontline practitioners to help explain whether and the nonprofit workforce shortages matter in the real world, and how this affects their communities. The responses were as illuminating as they were profound. 

Waiting List and Reductions in Services:  

The survey asked nonprofits to provide the impact of job vacancies as demonstrated by waiting lists for services. Nearly one in three (32%) of responding organizations reported having a waiting list that is more than a month long, with some organizations highlighting that clients have to wait years to receive services. While 14 percent of respondents acknowledged that they do not have a wait list, they clarified that it is because they are no longer accepting new clients or referrals and have turned people away at some point. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) noted that the question does not apply to their operations. 

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

The survey sought to identify why charitable nonprofits – organizations accustomed to attracting staff dedicated to the missions of the organizations – were having difficulty retaining and attracting employees. The factors survey respondents reported are telling.  

  • Eight out of 10 nonprofits (82%) responding to the survey identified salary competition as a factor preventing them from filling job openings. 
  • Nearly one in ten respondents (12%) stated that the inability to find child care affected recruitment and retention. 
  • About one in five respondents (21%) reported not being sure what was affecting recruitment and retention. 
  • Vaccination policies affect 6% of respondents. 

Insights from the Frontlines 

In comments voluntarily submitted, Utah nonprofits explained some of these challenges in the context of their missions and ongoing operations. 

“Stress” and “Burnout” 

  • “Our program staff are exhausted and burnt out from serving in essential positions in high-stress conditions for 2 years.  They are experiencing compassion fatigue and anxiety from dealing with youth who have experienced trauma during covid, coupled with their own trauma.  Conflicting guidance from state and federal policies, heated arguments in our communities leaves our staff in the crosshairs as they try to care for youth and keep them safe.  The strain and toll on our workforce is great.  Hiring and recruitment is near impossible at the moment.  Staff shortages add to the already stressful conditions.” 

Government Grantmaking and Contracting Policies and Practices 

  • “Salaries are increase but funding was secured before rates increased.  Contractors are increasing rates as well as our need to be more competitive with employees.   New grants etc. can be written with new costs but its affecting prior funding done under last years formulas etc.” 

Cumulative Challenges 

  • “Sustaining structure of the business, accounting, cash flow.” 

Accessing Pandemic-Related Relief 

In order to determine whether nonprofits had accessed various relief programs during the pandemic, the survey asked, “What federal or state relief has your nonprofit utilized?,” instructing respondents to select all that apply. The Paycheck Protection Program was nearly universally (76%) secured. Responding nonprofits also obtained state relief funds as well as American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds (24% each) and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (15%).  

Solutions Identified by Frontline Nonprofits 

As problem solvers in their communities, nonprofit professionals tend to innovate solutions and share their expertise freely with colleagues. Survey respondents provided a robust range of approaches to overcoming new and longstanding challenges that have restricted funding and abilities of organizations dedicated to the public good.  

Engage Directly with Funders: Embrace the need for a cultural and systemic shift in attitudes about the value of the services charitable nonprofits provide.  

  • “Greater understanding and buy-in from funders that they need to fund salaries (competitive salaries) and benefits to propels our missions forward.

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. 

  • “Competitive wages. Working for a nonprofit does not mean our work should be devalued. Acknowledging and restructuring our institutions to make space for historical trauma and oppression. Grant funding at times inherently requires us to exploit marginalized populations and provide solutions/services when our agencies are unqualified to do so.” 
  • “We need to make funding available for nonprofits to pay a livable wage.  More funding for salaries and benefits for staff through the relief programs.  We need to pay higher wages and add more benefits to be competitive.  Many foundations and funders do not want to fund salaries or overhead.  We have to break through the overhead myth and invest in infrastructure to deliver our missions effectively”
  • Multi-Year Agreements and Grants: Provide certainty and stability for critical programs by making agreements that extend beyond a one-year budget cycle. 

Multi-Year Agreements and Grants: Provide certainty and stability for critical programs by making agreements that extend beyond a one-year budget cycle.

  • “Encouragement for grantors to provide multi-year funding to allow for longer-term planning within smaller orgs. Financial incentives from state and local governments for NPO's that have part-time positions open and collaborate to create full-time benefited work opportunities.” 

Payment of Indirect Costs: Reimburse charitable nonprofits their actual indirect cost rates, as required under federal regulations, which state and local governments should adopt to provide efficiencies and consistency across governmental agencies. 

**Revised 1/7/22