Labour force strategy project - Ontario Nonprofit Network


LF Strategy

ONN is working on creating and building pathways that strengthen the ability of Ontario’s nonprofit sector to recruit and retain workers.

Labour Force Strategy Project

Planting the seeds for Ontario’s nonprofit sector labour force

ONN is working on creating and building pathways that strengthen Ontario’s nonprofit sector’s ability to recruit and retain workers. This project is utilizing a systemic and sector-driven approach to build on ONN’s existing work on labour force strategy and decent work.

In this project, we are focused on:

  • Designing and hosting a series of sandboxes focused on strategizing and prototyping solutions to meet the sector’s labour force needs.
  • Supporting and amplifying sector-led human resource initiatives.
  • Building and strengthening partnerships with post-secondary institutions and regional/municipal economic development and labour boards to better understand the role nonprofits play in supporting the skills, training and development of the future workforce.

Why does this matter now?

As documented in ONN’s 2023 state of the sector survey, Ontario’s nonprofit labour force is crumbling due to the pandemic and its fallout – people are leaving the sector in droves as we struggle to compete with each other, and across other sectors for people with all types of skills and expertise. While HR issues have always required our attention, this moment has created an unprecedented level of urgency. HR issues are impacting every part of the sector, across roles/functions, subsectors, and regions. The crisis is rapidly intensifying over a short period of time because:

  • Many significant social/economic shifts are happening simultaneously.
  • High demand for services, particularly complex care, is causing staff burnout.
  • Resources to do the work are decreasing with fundraising and donations down, and pandemic supports ceased.
  • Lack of funding that aligns with true cost of service and program delivery, as inflation peaks and has incited an affordability crisis

Our 2023 ‘State of the Sector’ survey revealed that:

  • Staffing challenges remain at a high level, particularly for larger nonprofits.
  • Three quarters of nonprofits faced turnover, with most workers leaving for the same job at another nonprofit or in the public sector.
  • Skills shortage, staff burnout and stress, and non-competitive compensation packages are the top factors affecting organizations’ ability to recruit and retain staff.

For more insights, and to access survey resources, visit our survey page.

Labour force project details

Designing and amplifying sector-led solutions for labour force issues

  • September – November, 2023: Information gathering and scoping
    • Reviewing current LMI (Labour Market Information), reports, and data 
    • Meetings with organizations and individuals that are leading HR initiatives
  • November, 2023 – January, 2024: Sandbox ideation and design
    • Finalizing focus areas and attendees for each sandbox
    • Co-designing each sandbox with facilitators and attendees
  • February – April, 2024: Hosting sandboxes
    • Hosting two multi-day sandboxes – see below for focus areas
    • Creating case study reports on each sandbox
  • March – June, 2024: Supporting and amplifying sector-led initiatives
    • Sharing case studies from sandboxes, and other sector-led HR initiatives
    • Hosting sessions with various stakeholders to support the work forward

If you’re interested in participating in our sandboxes, please reach out to Taashi at

Partnerships with post-secondary institutions and regional/municipal economic development and labour boards 

September – June  2024: Information gathering, scoping and strategizing 

  • Reviewing current LMI (Labour Market Information), reports, and data 
  • Building relationships with post-secondary institutions and regional/municipal economic development councils and labour boards 
  • Designing gathering spaces for learning and engagement to understand relationships between the nonprofit sector and higher education sector 
  • Engaging in discussions with regional/municipal economic development councils to better understand workforce priorities and community needs 
  • Mapping current programming and initiatives that align with supporting students’ skill development, work integrated learning, and recruitment opportunities with the nonprofit sector
  • Identifying strategic opportunities for collaboration,  resource sharing, and workforce solutions to support the nonprofit HR crisis 

Who is the project prioritizing? 

ONN’s Labour Force Strategy project is focused on supporting community nonprofits that have at least one staff member. Community nonprofits (as per Statistics Canada) are nonprofits that provide goods and services such as child care, advocacy, arts, and social services. Our priority is to support small to mid-size non-profits within the sector.

Ways nonprofits can get involved or support ONN’s labour force work

Given the prevalence and immediate need for sector wide solutions, our sandboxes are prioritizing two key issues that most impact recruitment and retention:

  • Leadership development and succession planning: How can we design meaningful and holistic success planning structures that support ongoing organizational leadership and long-term transition planning?
  • Compensation: With an underlying assumption that nonprofits want to pay their staff well, how do we empower and equip them to actualize this desire?

If you, or your organization are leading or having conversations on how to engage and solve these issues, please get in touch with Taashi at We would love to chat more about scalable solutions, what has worked, what hasn’t, and if there are innovative ways you are solving these issues.

Are you a post-secondary institution or regional/municipal economic development and labour board? Are you working on designing programming, initiatives or pathways for individuals (i.e. youth, students, newcomers and immigrants) to work with the nonprofit sector?We’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch with Herleen at

Labour force terminology

  • Labour Market Information (LMI): All the quantitative data, like numbers and statistics, and qualitative information, or the personal stories to support the data, related to employment and the workforce.
  • Labour Force Strategy: A labour force strategy will address, mitigate, and prevent critical human resource issues and proactively prepare for the future of work.


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