When Is It Time to Change?

My work experiences in the nonprofit sector have given me much practice in managing. In my view, there is a slight struggle in how management believes nonprofit organizations should be governed and how (and if) they should change.

For example, I have always felt that change is good. While people I have spoken with typically shared my views, it became another story when talks of implementation started. The key to success for nonprofits is the social service provided. Well, that is only one aspect. I believe the other is management of the organization. From my experience, nonprofit work consists of long hours, an urgency to provide social services and a stress from organizational growth that has to equal funding.

A recent study by Carolyn Dewa at the University of Toronto found that nonprofit sector employees may be particularly vulnerable to burnout given the mission-driven nature of their work. Moreover, a 2011 study from Opportunity Knocks found that half of the nonprofit employees surveyed were “burned out” or were in danger of becoming burned out.

Studies have shown that employees who are burned out are more likely to leave their positions prematurely. Of the nonprofits surveyed, the average turnover rate for 2012 was 17 percent. I would assert that not much has changed today.

Staff retention is a major challenge among nonprofit as only 10 percent of those surveyed have a retention strategy. I vividly remember working for an organization that would give staff salary increases, but would not change the stressful culture of the organization. This led to issues with retention. According to Nonprofit HR Solutions, retention strategies are often uncommon. However, they don’t have to be.

It is unclear why nonprofits put very little time, energy and effort into new policies, new approaches, new work productive systems and new ways to keep employee consistently engaged but instead seem to focus only on the social services provided. For those of you who are in management position at nonprofit organizations, does your organization believe in change?

Submitted by Shirmel Hayden

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