The Nonprofit HR Crisis

Subtopic: Creating wage parity in community care

The Crisis

A rapidly intensifying human resource crisis in nonprofits, compounded by the pandemic, is threatening the sector’s impact. 

Over the past few months ONN has been hearing from its network that workers are leaving the sector in droves and staff vacancies have reached a breaking point. It appears that our sector may be facing at least one of the following phenomena across its industries: the great resignation (there are enough people to work but they do not want to work in the jobs available) and/or a labour shortage (there are not enough people to work in the available jobs). 

While the HR crisis is a cross-sectoral issue, it is manifesting differently across subsectors. Urgency of need in communities (e.g., waiting lists, unmet needs, rising community demands) is also putting pressure on the need for more staff and volunteers.

What we are hearing

Table that shows bulleted list of issues on left and impact on right. Yellow background with purple headings and blue text.

Supporting data

  • CAMH research found that 4 out of 5 homelessness service providers said their mental health has declined during the pandemic 
  • Our survey found that 64% of nonprofits did not receive funding from federal supports 
  • Imagine Canada’s latest Sector Monitor survey in 2021 highlighted that 44% is the average decline in revenue for charities 
  • Q3 Business Conditions Survey from Statistics Canada found that the top obstacles for nonprofits across Canada: cost of insurance (48.6%), government regulations (37%) recruiting skilled employees (37.6%), retaining skilled employees (33.5%), labour force shortage (32.6%) (Statistics Canada 2021). Also that the top recruitment and retention plans of nonprofits were to increase wages for current employees (61.8%), provide paid time to engage in PD (40.3%),  but only 8.4% are planning to increase benefits (Statistics Canada 2021)

Layered causes for the HR crisis

2 purple squares that identify external trends and internal factors, green square that identifies the issue

Nonprofits have always faced human resource challenges and barriers to providing decent work in the sector. However, this moment is different as the HR situation is rapidly deteriorating to a crisis point. 

  • The sector and its workers have been on the frontlines of a global pandemic
  • Ongoing systemic racism
  • Cost of living is increasing rapidly
  • There is limited care infrastructure to offload unpaid carework in the home, which particularly impacts women who make up a majority of the sector’s labour force
  • People are reconsidering – whether by choice or force – what type of work they want to do and the role work plays in their lives 
  • Demand for nonprofit services is growing
  • Earned-income revenues are down
  • Government funding has not kept up with increases in population as well as the cost of program delivery for the past twenty years. 

The sector is facing this crisis when it is actually more important than ever for nonprofits to recruit and retain the best people to carry out our sector’s community oriented missions and work on the most complex social problems of our time.

Call to action

Share with us what you are hearing and seeing. Email: pamela@theonn.ca.