Staffing Needs Are Important in Program Planning, Budgeting

In a year of higher-than-average unemployment, many working in nonprofits are finding they are providing increasing levels of services to their clientele. For example, homeless shelters have seen a dramatic increase in first-time homeless families which is often caused by job loss.

According to the 2011 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey from Nonprofit HR Solutions:

It is our belief that direct services continues to be the largest area for anticipated growth as a result of the increased demand in services from the American public as they continue to be faced with the challenges of unemployment, job loss, foreclosures and other issues related to economic hardship and related stress resulting from having to live on less.

Those working in social service nonprofits in particular are finding innovative ways to serve the community. Many are creating new programs and increasing the reach of current programs. But, when adding new programs or when increasing service delivery, some tough decisions need to be made in terms of staffing.

Sometimes, such staffing efforts are supported by umbrella agencies that support local affiliates. Coalitions and national organizations have also stepped up to the plate. For instance, Feeding America is a national organization providing support to more than 200 food banks across the United States. Without the support of the larger organization, local food banks would be faced with additional staffing and funding shortages.

On the other hand, just like employees in the business world, nonprofit employees are often asked to do more with less. In many cases, current employees are asked to take on the additional responsibilities required by increasing service levels and additional programs.

This graph illustrates how new programs are supported:

Larger nonprofit are much more likely to hire new staff than smaller organizations. While 46% of larger organizations planned on hiring new program staff, only 24% of small organizations planned on hiring new staff. Smaller organizations tend to rely more on volunteers and current staff to support new programs.

The survey went on to report, “Increasing staff workloads often results in employee burnout, employee dissatisfaction, and higher turnover. As such, the negative implications of stretching existing staff too thin should not be disregarded.”

As efforts within your organization aim to better support its mission while also creating new programs or strengthening existing ones, including staffing needs in the planning process is very important.

To plan for future staffing needs, increasing your budget for recruitment is a good first step. Unfortunately, the survey reports only 25% of nonprofits currently have a formal annual recruitment budget.

Consistent with the findings from the 2010 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, only one-quarter of organizations reported having a formal annual recruitment budget. Organizations with larger operating budgets were much more likely than those with smaller operating budgets to designate money for the recruitment of new employees. Clearly, larger organizations find annual recruitment budgets to be more of a necessity than smaller organizations as such budgets support what is commonly a more complex and/or time-consuming recruiting process required by organizations with large staff sizes.

While having a recruitment budget is more important for larger nonprofits, smaller organizations can be better prepared for the future by including these expenses in their yearly budgets. Expenses for recruiting include job ad placements in offline (newspaper) and online sources and attending job fairs.

A variety of formal and informal methods are used for nonprofit recruitment. The survey revealed the largest web-based source for recruitment as the local online newspaper (23%) followed by Craigslist (22%). However, many charities made use of career sites specializing in the nonprofit sector such as ExecSearches (2%).

Some of the best job fairs where nonprofits should be represented are at colleges. The survey included the recommendation that “college campuses may be an untapped resource for many nonprofits looking to bring new talent into their organizations.”

As you plan your budget for job fairs, consider contacting local community colleges, universities and Chambers of Commerce to find out about their job fairs and usual costs to attend. If you miss the window for job fairs, setting up a desk at the central student center is another option about which you can inquire.

As your organization better plans for its staffing needs, you may find current employees thanking you. Particularly in a down economy, employee retention and satisfaction should be high on any business or nonprofit’s priority list.

Sandra Sims is a contributing blogger to is a job board for nonprofit job seekers interested in fundraising, management and executive nonprofit jobs.

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