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Amid Challenges, Nonprofits ‘Aren’t Going Anywhere’ - The Business Journal


From foundations that fund regional nonprofits to the nonprofit agencies that provide direct services, hiring staff is the biggest challenge they share heading into 2022.

Nearly 60,000 nonprofits in Ohio employ more than 560,000, according to Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs.

In 2020, nonprofits shed 1.6 million jobs nationally and those numbers aren’t expected to reach pre-COVID levels until the middle of this year.

“Many organizations we fund have shared with us that hiring and retaining people has been difficult,” says Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

One such organization, the Help Network of Northeast Ohio, could add another four full-time call-takers to its staff of 55 full- and part-time workers, but is struggling to fill those positions, says CEO Vince Brancaccio. That gives him pause as the United States looks to roll out a new 988 number this July for individuals experiencing mental health emergencies.

“We’re expecting, right off the bat, a 15% to 20% increase in suicide-related calls across the board,” Brancaccio says. Suicide Crisis Hotline staff typically field about 175 suicide/crisis calls weekly, he adds.

The Mahoning United Way employs 10 and is hiring for two positions, Hannon says, but can’t get applicants. To attract workers, the organization improved flex time and lets employees work from home when needed.

“People want different things, especially younger staff, in 2022,” Hannon says. “It’s not always more money. It’s more freedom.”

The United Way of Trumbull County had to reduce its staff at the end of 2021 – one full-time and one part-time position – as did some of its partner agencies, says President and CEO Ginny Pasha. With continued uncertainty heading into 2022, many organizations hesitate to plan events or fundraisers.

“There is so much uncertainty with the surges and guidance coming out of the CDC. I don’t think any of us plan further than a month or six weeks out,” Pasha says.

Nonprofit salaries often are lower than for-profit companies, making it challenging to compete for applicants. As job seekers expect more from employers, some organizations are trying to meet those expectations.

Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries increased some salaries as much as 18% from last year, which is “fairly sizable,” says CEO Mark Samuel. The average starting hourly wage is $12. Competing with for-profit employers with higher starting wages would mean asking donors to increase their giving, he says.

“The things that we’ve done in the past that have brought in qualified applicants have not been working,” Samuel says. “For nonprofits, the pay can’t compete with the for-profit world.”

Heart Reach currently employs nine, which is below the 14 needed. During the summer, the nonprofit adds another 10 part-time positions to operate its food service sites and day camps, he says.

In 2021, Heart Reach increased its workforce through different initiatives. Among them were a government-funded program that pays senior citizens to work at nonprofits, AmeriCorps Vista, workers’ compensation claimants, teens from a work training program, and cleaning staff through a partnership with Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries Inc.

“That’s a huge help,” Samuel says. “It’s those kinds of things to help support what we’re doing.”

Filling administrative roles hasn’t been an issue for the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. But the organization hasn’t had many applicants for other jobs, including a drywall repair worker, says Executive Director Ian Beniston. House repairs make up the bulk of YNDC’s construction work.

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