August 02, 2022

Guest Article: The Power of Benefits for Nonprofits in Utah

By Elevate 401k (UNA's Retirement Plan Provider)

In preparation for UNA’s launch of the Pooled Employer 401(k) plan, we interviewed several of Utah’s nonprofits to find out what they have to say about the plan and other benefits. The personal experience and advice within these interviews were given by nonprofit professionals for nonprofit professionals. Interviewees include Amanda Martinez, from Fourth Street Clinic, Lindsay Mattes, from Kids On The Move, Rob Roake, from NeighborWorks, and Gayle Cipriani, representing Best Friends Animal Society. If you hope to find, retain, and support great employees, take a moment to review some of your peers' responses below.

What are the benefits for an employee at your nonprofit?

The opportunity to participate in the significant mission of a nonprofit organization was the first and most important benefit mentioned throughout these interviews. The fulfillment that employees receive from what they do is not to be overlooked. In many cases, this is the main benefit employees realize when working for a nonprofit and is probably the largest strength that the nonprofit industry calls upon when recruiting. Lindsay Mattes shared an enthusiastic perspective of the mission of Kids On The Move,

“While I have this opportunity I am going to gloat about Kids On The Move for a while. What we do for these children and their parents is amazing. This is the best place I have ever worked and what we do really inspires people to want to be here.” She also noted, “The incoming workforce cares and has passion about their mission. They care about what a company is doing.” (Lindsay Mattes, Kids on the Move)

In your mind, how is your role connected to the mission of your nonprofit?

Gayle Cipriani, a benefits specialist at Best Friends Animal Society, defined her role as “crucial to the mission” and noted that managing the benefits and compensation of employees directly affects recruiting and retaining the right people. Rob Roake mentioned that without the right people, the right work cannot get done, and robust compensation is a big part of that.

Gayle and Rob’s feelings were a common theme reflected by the other professionals as well. Nonprofit organizations are currently operating in a time where hiring and holding on to good employees has become extremely trying. Whether or not your nonprofit is large enough to hire teams like Rob and Gayle’s, focusing on the role of getting the right people to come and stay is “crucial to the mission.”

A lot has been made of the “Great Resignation”. How do you think it has affected your nonprofit and nonprofits in general?

“We are obviously suffering from the same problems as everyone else. Employee turnover, competitive compensation, and so on. What we are focused on, especially right now, is recruiting passion. Passion/Culture these are buzzwords right now everyone is saying them across the board, but here we have an advantage because what we do in the nonprofit space is a passion project. There is a real mission. We have what the next generation of workers is looking for and that is a reason; a reason to wake up in the morning and a reason to give their time.” (Lindsay Mattes, Kids on the Move)

“For us it has been far more on the recruiting side than retention. It has been very difficult to recruit people because they have “left” the healthcare world or “left” the nonprofit world already and are not always eager to return. It’s getting better bit by bit.” (Amanda Martinez, Fourth Street Clinic)

“Housing costs, even more than COVID, has affected Best Friends in terms of the great resignation. People are reevaluating their situations… however because Best Friends focuses on kindness, culture and respect, we have also attracted a lot of these people, as they reevaluate what is important to them.” (Gayle Cipriani, Best Friends Animal Society)

“It is a competitive market out there and nonprofit boards can get behind benefits like the 401(k). It is much easier to ask them to support offering employee benefits than it is to continue to return and debate different wage increases.” (Rob Roake, NeighborWorks)

What benefits do you offer? How do prospective employees view benefits in general and specifically your benefits? In your opinion, how do employees rank the importance of each type of benefit? Where does 401(k) or 403(b) fit into their ranking?

Responders to our survey and those who were interviewed ranked Medical Benefits such as health insurance as the number one benefit, Paid Time Off (PTO) and flexible remote work as number two, and a retirement plan as number three.

Honorable mentions included complementary mental health resources, employer-sponsored lunches, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and housing benefits.

As one of the top three benefits, retirement plans are crucial to the retention and recruitment of employees. The UNA Pooled Employer Plan is intended to help nonprofits offer higher quality, lower cost retirement plans to their employees and elevate the entire benefits offering an employee has access to.

Do you have a financial wellness program?

72% of Americans report feeling stressed about money, 58% say they are living paycheck to paycheck, and financial issues are a leading cause for workplace stress across the country. To combat these feelings of stress and shame, many for-profit organizations have thought about adding a financial wellness program to their suite of employee benefits. Of the few nonprofits interviewed for this article, one, Best Friends Animal Society, currently had a financial wellness program in place. When asked about their tool Gayle said,

“We were really excited about rolling out Truist. We have had great participation on the ignite sessions and it really does seem like it offers something to employees at all levels. I have worked through the program myself and loved it.” (Gayle Cipriani, Best Friends Animal Society)

Best Friends Animal Society uses Truist Momentum, one of the nation’s top financial wellness tools, to fulfill their employees' needs. Why is this important? This is the exact same program participants in the UNA Pooled Employer Plan gain access to free of charge. A survey conducted by the Truist Bank showed that 91% of employees responded that they felt their company cared about their financial well-being after participating in the Truist program.

When you think about the total cost of offering a retirement plan, what kinds of costs do you consider?

The foremost consideration when thinking about the cost of offering a retirement plan was the cost to participants. This is the mark of companies that truly care for their employees.

Second was the cost of the employer’s contribution to the plan. In most every 401(k) environment, including the UNA Pooled Employer Plan, the greatest cost when offering this benefit is not the fees involved, but the cost of an employer contribution. These contributions are not mandatory. You can offer a plan without offering any sort of match; however, offering a match often goes a long way in the eyes of your employees and is something to consider when weighing the costs and benefits of a well-rounded 401(k).

Lastly, fiduciary risk. It is the responsibility of organizations to monitor and provide good investment options to their participating employees. Additionally, there are administrative duties that are fiduciary actions.

How often do you review these costs and compare them with alternatives?

“It’s something we do not really have a clear structure for yet, I know it is something that is supposed to be happening annually but…”

“Once a year.”   “Every three years moving forward.”   “About every two years.”

If you currently offer a retirement plan of some kind, benchmarking your fees and services against the UNA PEP can be a great way to compare where your plan stands in the current marketplace.

What advice do you have for other nonprofits with respect to the importance of a robust benefits package as a whole, especially the importance of a retirement plan?

“Try to find good partners. Treat your vendors like partners… If they are not invested in you, regardless of your size, it’s not going to work out…" (Lindsay Mattes, Kids On the Move)

"I would tell them not to expect adding an employee benefit package or even adding a particular benefit to your suite is going to be a silver bullet. It is great, true, and it will help, but it will not solve ALL of your recruiting and retention issues in one swoop.” (Rob Roake, NeighborWorks)

“Listen to your people, know how your people view your offering. Last year we sent out a comprehensive survey to our staff that addressed all aspects of the 4th Street Clinic environment. One of those was employee benefits/ wages. What is and isn’t important to employees and how do we make these things better?" (Amanda Martinez, Fourth Street Clinic)

“A lot of shelters and nonprofits are trying to retain employees on low budgets. It all depends on the nature of the business and what is valued. Taking care of animals is not easy and can be very stressful. We give all employees up to 25 mental health visits a year and any dependent up to 25 visits a year.” Here, Gayle shows the importance of discovering what is applicable to her employees and putting her resources there. She also said, “You have got to see past today and invest in your future. Without the pension plans of yesterday, it is really up to you to put importance on the 401(k) as a benefit.” (Gayle Cipriani, Best Friends Animal Society)

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