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Nonprofit job market better; challenges remain

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The nonprofit job market may be stabilizing, yet nonprofits in the recession may be straining their workforces and paying inadequate attention to managing their human resources, a new survey says.

While over half of more than 500 U.S. nonprofits responding to the 2010 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey reported eliminating positions in 2009, only 10 percent said they intended to eliminate positions in 2010.

The survey, conducted through a partnership between Nonprofit HR Solutions and the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego, also found more nonprofits grew their staff from 2009 to 2010 than in the previous year.

But even with anticipated job growth in 2010, nonprofits also reported a rise in overall demand for their services.

“As a result, many organizations risk overworking their employees by using current staff to run new programs and initiatives,” the survey says.

Fifty-seven percent of nonprofits responding to the survey said their main strategy for staffing new programs or initiatives is to use existing staff, for example, while only 29 percent reported hiring new staff either in full-time or part-time roles.

And while other surveys have indicated they may be using volunteers in part to offset job losses, the survey says, nonprofits are not reporting the use of volunteers as the main staffing strategy to support new programs.

Nonprofits also reported they are more likely to fill high-level jobs with candidates from outside the organization.

“This indicates they might be overlooking the value of succession planning as a as a key part of their organizational strategy (i.e. not promoting from within),” the survey says.

Maintaining salary budgets during a period of lower revenues was by far the biggest staffing challenge last year, the survey says, marking a departure from earlier surveys that found the top staffing challenges traditionally were hiring qualified staff within limited budget restraints and finding qualified staff.

While the national unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent in the last year, the survey says, filling nonprofit jobs, particularly at higher levels of management, still takes time, with executive jobs taking the longest.

Forty-six percent of nonprofit reportedly take over 91 days to fill high-level jobs, while only 23 percent fill such jobs in less than 60 days.

Filling entry-level jobs takes the shortest time, with 93 percent of nonprofits filling those jobs within 60 days.

And diversity across age, gender and race remains a staffing challenge for many nonprofits, with 43 percent saying balancing ethnic diversity is the most challenging diversity issue, and 65 percent saying that attracting qualified persons of color is their greatest ethnic-diversity challenge.

Nonprofits continue to struggle to maintain the practices for managing human resources, the survey says.

Nearly three-fourths of nonprofits indicated their organizations did not have any formal budget for recruiting employees, and most organizations allocated limited resources to staffing management and human resources in general.

Seventy-nine percent of nonprofits spend less than 20 percent of their time each week on employment and recruitment issues, the survey says.

“This is surprising considering that salaries and benefits often represent the largest budget expense for most organizations,” it says.

The time allocated to human-resource management, or HR, is “limited and frequently insufficient,” the survey says. “Instead, organizations often rely on staff whose expertise falls outside HR, or they use board member expertise and outside HR management organizations to perform certain HR functions.”

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