Many Indiana nonprofits found it challenging to provide adequate staff compensation and recruit and retain qualified volunteers and board members even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Indiana University report finds.
More than half (54%) of Indiana nonprofits with paid staff said adequately compensating staff was challenging, including a quarter (26%) who said it was a major challenge. “These challenges likely reflected efforts by nonprofits to stretch tight budgets to meet increased demands for services and growing competition for staff with appropriate skills,” said Kirsten Grønbjerg, director of the Indiana Nonprofits Project and Distinguished Professor at the O’Neill School, Indiana University Bloomington. “While these findings are from several years ago, we suspect these challenges have become even more aggravated as inflation is driving up costs and as all employers are finding it difficult to find and retain staff in the post-Covid era at prior wage and salary levels.”
These findings and more are the subject of a new report Indiana Nonprofits: Managing Human Resources, released today by the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
The report is based on data from a 2017-18 survey (the most recent data available) of 1,036 Indiana nonprofits that was conducted by the Indiana Nonprofits Project. It examines the size and other key dimensions of Indiana nonprofits’ boards, volunteers, and staff, including their board selection mechanisms, the importance of volunteers to their mission, the extent to which they face challenges, and which key resources they have in place to help address the challenges.
In addition to staff compensation, volunteer management was another major challenge for Indiana nonprofits identified in the report. Almost all (88%) Indiana nonprofits rely on volunteers (other than board members). Of those that do, 60% found it challenging to recruit and retain qualified volunteers, including more than a quarter (28%) who said it was a major challenge. This is especially notable because more than three-fourths (77%) of Indiana nonprofits with volunteers said volunteers are either very important or essential to the work of their organization.
Grønbjerg said volunteer management challenges are likely also exacerbated in the current environment. “The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted well-established practices of relying heavily on volunteers by Indiana nonprofits. It has been, and more likely will continue to be, difficult to reestablish those prior patterns.”
Despite the importance of volunteers, however, only about one-third (31%) of Indiana nonprofits had a volunteer coordinator. Additionally, just over half (57%) of Indiana nonprofits had only one or no resources in place to support the work of volunteers.
Many Indiana nonprofits also lacked important resources for supporting the work of their paid staff and board members. For example, although 85% of nonprofits with staff had position descriptions for paid staff, only 64% had job descriptions for board members. Other resources, such as orientation processes, written manuals, personnel policies, and training/development opportunities for staff, board members or volunteers were even less prevalent.
Miah Michaelsen, executive director of the Indiana Arts Commission, concurred, “Nonprofits in Indiana want and need resources that enable them to meet their mission through effective management of human resources and business operations, but there is no single statewide support network currently in place that provides those services.” She continued, “Considering the sector delivers critical programs and services to all ages across the state, developing more collective responses to these challenges has become urgent.”
About the briefing
This briefing is the fifth in a series of reports from the Indiana Nonprofit Survey, Round III produced by the Indiana Nonprofit Sector: Scope and Community Dimensions project, designed to inform local community leaders and policy makers. The analysis is a joint effort of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The brief’s co-authors are the director of this project, Kirsten Grønbjerg and Anna Doering.
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2023, “Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs” by U.S. News & World Report, the O’Neill School ranks first in the country. Five of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including nonprofit management, ranked first.
About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its undergraduate, graduate, certificate and professional development programs, its research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram and “Like” us on Facebook.