Nonprofit succession: What next if no one is around to plan it?
Skip to main content
person smiling

What’s next for nonprofits if no one is around to plan it?

from  November 18, 2021 | 2 min read

Theres a problem facing nonprofit organizations, and whats worse is many nonprofits arent facing the problem. What are we talking about?

The problem is that nonprofits’ futures are in jeopardy, not because theyre not needed, not because funding is drying up, not because what they do doesn’t matter. But if the current exodus of talent continues, there will simply be no one there to lead, plan or provide these truly invaluable services.

Lack of funding is the biggest barrier to getting more from digital for 50% of charities. Staff skills came out as the second biggest barrier - with 48% of respondents selecting this. [1]

Youre probably wondering right now if this is true. And if so, why is this happening, and where will that leave nonprofits and their succession planning. All valid questions, so lets take a look.

Is there a nonprofit people exodus?

Yes. Whats more, its not simply an outcome of the pandemic. Its been going on for a while, although it has certainly been exacerbated.

But it goes beyond scary headlines. Recent studies have dug into the crisis, and the results arent good. Forbes found

45% of responding nonprofit employees indicated that they will seek new or different employment in the next five years. Of that group, 23% said that nonprofits would not be among the types of organizations they intend to pursue[2]

Losing 45% of your workforce in under a decade cant be ignored by any industry. At this rate, even the most optimistic projections and plans cant attract and onboard new talent into the sector quickly enough.

So whats the plan for stopping this?

Action stations: attract, retain and inspire.

Clearly, theres something wrong with nonprofits. For some reason, nonprofit people feel undervalued and uninspired, and thats pushing them to look elsewhere.

Cynics will point to pay in the sector, but the reality is thats narrow thinking. The nonprofit industry historically attracts people for more than simply financial benefit. These are often purpose-driven individuals who value their impact in helping make the world a better place. So why is this no longer enough?

86% feel that it is very important or important to work for a charity committed to digital. [3]

The problem is they feel the impact they are delivering is being handcuffed and undermined. Many nonprofits face tougher fundraising conditions, more compliance complications, and bigger project planning and implementation barriers. This has led many organizations to lean unfairly on their people to manage these problems. Often expecting more from them, with the same or fewer resources and support. And these people stepped up, but these conditions cant last forever. Nows the time for enablement to inspire impact.

People = impact. No people. No impact.

For nonprofits, impact has always been key to measuring success, but the reality is people have to come first. Without them, there is no impact. So how do nonprofits engage and inspire these people again, as you did in the past?

Start by listening and empowering.

The first step is to create a dialogue. Inflexible, top-down processes dont create collaborative cultures, and thats what you need right now. This means regular comms, a culture that encourages discussion, and an environment where all ideas are considered and people are empowered to make the business changes that make sense for them.

The next step is inspiring them to innovate in service to the mission again. This means using what youve heard above and acting on it. These are flexible, creative people who adapt to challenging circumstances and find solutions. Now its your turn. But how?

Your job is to support them. Give your people the tools and the support they need to make things happen. Dont be a barrier, be an enabler. This means more flexible and connected systems that are built for the needs of nonprofits, so they arent losing critical mission time on pointless admin or shuffling data between silos. And it means thinking differently about what work means to a modern workforce. What works for one may not work for another, and you need to hear these concerns, which is where talent management comes in.

Modern talent solutions like Unit4 Talent Management enable managers and teams with tools
to boost productivity, engagement and growth. They do this by connecting insights from all aspects of your employee journey. From measuring engagement, and facilitating one-on-one conversations, to tracking objectives and providing employees with an easy-to-use LMS that will drive development. They help you make informed business decisions and improve the employee experience.

Succession success

Listening to and empowering people is inspiring. And inspired people feel valued and committed. But also, a culture like this will attract talented individuals passionate about making a difference. So instead of losing 45% of your people, youll have your pick of half of the talent in the sector. Gartner found that:

51% of employees indicate that whether or not their organization provides flexible work in the future would impact their decision to stay at the organization. [4]

But more importantly, instead of spending the next decade planning talent drives, you can spend it planning for mission success.