Job seekers and hiring managers: What our surveys reveal about employment in the nonprofit sector

It’s no secret that the past few years have been challenging for nonprofits as they try to serve their clients with shrinking budgets. We saw this first hand last year when we asked nonprofits to share the impact the recession was having on their organizations.

This year, we again approached the thousands of organizations on Idealist to ask them how they’re doing, what they anticipate in the coming year, and to learn more about their human resources practices. We also asked job seekers to share their experiences to get a more complete picture of how the sector as a whole is faring. In total, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and 3,000 active job seekers to find out who’s hiring and who’s looking, the latest in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now.

In general things are looking up with 48% of all nonprofits plan to make new hires in 2012 and 54% say they will offer salary increases in 2012, up from 47% last year. However, what’s compelling are the experiences of job seekers and hiring managers.

What we know about today’s nonprofit job seeker:

From Job Seekers

  • They are experienced: 30% of job seekers are over the age 50; 26% have more than 11 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
  • They value opportunities for career development: In fact, this is one of the top reasons job seekers who are currently employed full-time (33%) are looking to leave their current organizations.
  • They are committed in and outside of the office: 83% of job seekers have volunteered, demonstrating an interest in staying and growing in the sector.
  • They want to hear from hiring managers: The number one challenge job seekers face is the lack of communication from employers. In fact, 86% say they never receive any feedback or follow up at all.

Tip for job seekers: Given your experience and needs, it’s even more important that you are searching for organizations that are a good fit. Be sure you’re searching for the right opportunities by asking yourself a few key questions.

What we know about today’s nonprofit hiring manager:

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From Hiring Managers

  • They wear many hats: 84% have responsibilities in at least one other area, most often program management, office/facilities management, and communications.
  • They appreciate attention to detail: Because they have to juggle multiple responsibilities, hiring managers place emphasis on potential employees following instructions in order to move through the hiring process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • They also prefer job seekers not call: Also because of their limited time and resources, 40% of hiring managers prefer that you not follow up about your job application status.
  • They value passion: 86% say that understanding their organization’s mission is very important.

Tip for organizations: With many job seekers looking to leave their current organizations due to lack of advancement, you may need to get creative with how you support your employees. Over at Idealisthr.org – a community for nonprofit HR professionals  – a nonprofit recently shared a successful leadership pipeline program they created designed to retain and support top talent. You can also strengthen your organization by tapping into the Idealist community.

There is more information in the surveys. Download the Job Seeker Survey and the Organization Survey to learn more.

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Comments (8)


  1. Marvin Espinoza writes:
    July 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    This report is timely and very informative for both, the hiring manager and the job seeker. Thank you for a job well done!


  2. Anna writes:
    July 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    THANK YOU IDEALIST! I’ve been meaning to make a donation since I got my job through a listing last year, and articles like this one are a good reminder to do so :)


  3. Fred Pearson writes:
    August 1, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This is just so informative! The tips are priceless. Will definitely apply those. One hell of a great article!


  4. Basoga peter writes:
    August 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    This is great but all need commitment.


  5. Young writes:
    August 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Interesting. I use this site often. Nice article..made me think a bit differently about non-profit jobs.


  6. Gail writes:
    August 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I’m actively seeking employment in the health care industry and plan to use my cosmetology skills to work in the non-profits on a volunteer basis. Hoping that both will satisfy the Idealist in me. Of course, if I had the funds, I’d put my own non-profit dream into action, but funds, energy, time, etc. are the very real challenges (have obligations of home and children as well). Anyway, this could be one very real way to help all around.


  7. Mary Ellen Gardner Turner writes:
    August 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    This article is highly reflective of my own experience in working with and for non profit organizations. In the non profits where I have worked every single employee has job duties that span what would be different departments in a for profit organization. This is also what makes it hard when trying to summarize your experience for a resume, the variety is so broad.


  8. [...] we surveyed job seekers for our 2012 state of the sector report, many shared that they want to hear from employers. Not just acknowledgement that an application has been received, but also any information that will [...]


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