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The New Normal of Nonprofit Turnover

Employee turnover is a challenge and a reality that all nonprofit organizations face.  Community Initiatives is no exception, and all of our nonprofit projects are experiencing turnover at a rate higher than in decades past.  It is critical for projects to think of themselves as institutions that can thrive outside of the personalities and knowledge of any one leader or staff member, because high turnover is the new normal in the nonprofit sector.

What are the statistical trends?  As The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported: “According to the Nonprofit HR survey, nonprofits experienced 19 percent turnover in 2014.  Voluntary turnover, an indication that employees are more confident about their prospects in the job market, increased to 14 percent, up four percentage points over the previous year.”

Even with the best employee wellness and retention programs, turnover is a natural part of the modern economy.  The days when people stayed with an employer for decades are long past and certainly millennials are likely to have many more employers than their parents did. According to a 2014 news release from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of baby boomers is 10 years and for millennials it is 3 years.

This trend appears to be the new normal across many industries, so it is time for non-profits and fiscally sponsored projects to prepare for this shift in the workforce norms. LinkedIn recently shared some great guidance for mitigating the impact when turnover occurs:

  1. Create SOPs (standard operating procedures)
  2. Keep job descriptions updated
  3. Cross train employees to limit the liability of a single departure
  4. Have every employee create a “day in the life” summary
  5. Hold periodic “job shadowing” days

While turnover can be unsettling, costly, and time consuming, it is especially difficult when a hardworking employee that is beloved by the team moves on.  But when an individual finds an opportunity that will make them happier, it is important to lend your support. When you allow individuals to make graceful exits and celebrate their contributions, your organization’s reputation is strengthened as a result. And you never know, they may come back to work for you again in the coming years!

Transitions can be challenging but they also represent an opportunity for a shift in energy, focus, and capacity. Community Initiatives offers strategic planning services that has already helped several projects through succession planning. Contact your specialist if your project is in need of support in this area.