Long Hours, Low Pay Turn Off Young Nonprofit Workers, Study Finds

We found this news release in The Chronicle on Philanthropy an important reality check for non-profits seeking to end homelessness and build supportive housing. The concerns raised need to be addressed and resolved so that we can make sure that these non-profits organizations not only achieve their missions but can grow and survive. Who will lead New Jersey’s non-profit housing and advocacy groups in the future?

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Long Hours, Low Pay Turn Off Young Nonprofit Workers, Study Finds
By Caroline Preston

New York

A new survey of young nonprofit workers shows that long hours and low pay are a key reason that few of them expect to stay in the charity world throughout their professional careers — and even fewer desire to become top leaders of nonprofit organizations.

More than 70 percent of young nonprofit employees don’t ever expect to serve as the executive director of a charity, according to a new survey released last week at the national conference of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

What’s more, 45 percent of nonprofit workers predict that their next job will not be at a charity, but in government or business, according to the survey.

“Many of our members aren’t sure they want the executive-director jobs the way they’re currently structured, and they’re also thinking of leaving the sector,” said Josh Solomon, a board member of the network, which offers training and other services to people in their 20s and 30s. Mr. Solomon, 32, is managing director of alumni engagement at Teach for America, a New York organization.

Less than 9 percent said they were highly likely to seek the top job at the nonprofit group where they currently work, according to the survey of more than 1,650 of the network’s members.

The average age of respondents was about 28.

Young charity workers cited burnout and low pay as the biggest reasons they might leave nonprofit work. When asked why they would not pursue leadership jobs, they cited concerns about the pressure from board members, grant makers, and heavy work burdens that face executive directors.

“We need to think about ways to make these positions sustainable,” said Mr. Solomon, who presented the results. “Passion isn’t enough to keep people in these roles.”

‘All I Do Is Fund Raise’

Speakers at the conference said that nonprofit executives have done a poor job of making charities seem like appealing places to work.

Frances Kunreuther, director of the Building Movement Project, a New York organization that promotes social change, says she loves her job, but she conceded at the meeting that she is one of the baby boomers who probably didn’t put the job of leading an organization in a positive light.

“If you came and talked to me at 5:00 or 6:00 or 7:00 on a Friday, I would say, ‘Oy vey, this is the worst job I’ve ever had. All I do is fund raise.'”

Even as many charities are expecting to lose leaders to retirement over the next several years, they are doing little to prepare younger staff members to take over, conference participants said.

Most charities are organized in a very hierarchical way, and directors tend to be too busy or unwilling to share responsibilities, participants said.

More than 70 percent of those surveyed said that job experience was what they needed most in order to prepare for a higher-level position. Getting coaching or guidance from a mentor was the second-most-cited need, followed by opportunities to learn from peers, graduate degrees, and professional workshops.

“It’s not a huge financial investment our membership is looking for,” said Mr. Solomon. “It’s really time.”

Diversity Concerns

In addition, charity workers said that factors like low pay are driving men and minority groups out of the field in disproportionate numbers, contributing to a lack of diversity within the profession. Moreover, charities tend to pay women lower salaries for the same work, participants said.

“A lot of us have gone to work at organizations that might have a social-justice framework, but when we get there we find that racism and sexism are still alive and well, and the glass ceiling still exists,” said Julia Beatty, a program officer at the Twenty-First Century Foundation, a New York group that raises money to help blacks promote social change.

Conference participants said they are finding that some of their colleagues have to rely on spouses, parents, or other sources for the financial support to remain in the field.

Women, meanwhile, made up more than 80 percent of the people who responded to the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network survey, and also make up the majority of the association’s membership, which currently numbers more than 10,000. “You shouldn’t have to marry money to be able to work at a nonprofit over the long term,” Mr. Solomon said in an interview.

Findings from the survey will soon be available on the network’s Web site.