What will 2022 hold for nonprofits?

PART 1 of a series of blogs from MNA Executive Director, Liz Moore.

For the first time in almost two years, taking a rational and reasoned approach to predicting trends and issues for Montana’s nonprofit sector seems feasible. Although nonprofits are still experiencing COVID-related uncertainty and instability, we are also beginning a slow transition to something more familiar and settled, less opaque. Will this hold? We don’t know. But for now, as the pandemic shifts toward an epidemic, we’ll take time over the next three weeks to offer our thoughts on issues impacting Montana’s nonprofits in 2022. Top of mind for us this week is the nonprofit workforce along with equity, well-being within the sector, hybrid workplace and programs, and tech advancements. In addition to outlining these issues, we will fill you in on how MNA is responding and offer some additional resources.  

Workforce 

According to the  Center for Civil Society Studies Archive, the nonprofit workforce, as of December 2021, is still estimated to be approximately 3.7% smaller than its estimated pre-pandemic level. In Montana, of 117 survey respondents in December 2021, nearly one in three (28%) reported vacancies between zero and 9% of total staff. One in four (25%) shared job vacancy rates between 10% and 19%, and 23% responded job openings for 20% to 29% of their positions. Another 24% reported vacancies greater than 30%.  

Nonprofits offer advantages and disadvantages to employees seeking change. On the one hand, record numbers of employees are leaving positions that lack meaning or are at odds with personal values. From this perspective nonprofit employment offers a real advantage. However, the Montana Department of Labor reported that wages paid to Montana workers surged in 2020 and early 2021, posting a 7.2% increase ($1.7 billion) for the year ending 2021 Q1. As Montana’s wages and personal income grow overall, many nonprofits are not able to compete and are struggling to find employees.  

In addition to ongoing advocacy efforts related to nonprofit workforce issues, MNA is offering a Recruit, Retain, Train online course this spring designed to support nonprofits in becoming the workplace of choice. We are also hosting a Collaborating with your County Commissioners on ARPA Funding Town Hall later this month in addition to developing a user guide for nonprofits interested in applying for ARPA Workforce Development funds.  

Workforce Resources 

Equity 

Due in part to a growing awareness of the impact of health and wage/employment disparities, along with increased attention to systemic racism, nonprofit leaders across the state are exploring what it means to address equity in their work. Not only is this long overdue effort the right thing to do, employees, job candidates, potential board members, and other volunteers are increasingly clear about expectations that nonprofit leaders will appropriately address issues of equity both in their internal systems and in their work in the community.  

MNA has committed to center belonging and equity throughout our organizational systems, programs, and services. We are working with consultants and trainers to audit our resources, including training curricula, through an equity lens. We are reworking our policies and decisionmaking processes to uphold accountability not only to MNA members, but to communities of color, rural communities, tribal communities, and others who are historically underrepresented in Montana. As we curate and develop resources we will pass them on to you.  

Equity Resources 

Well-Being 

For decades nonprofit volunteers and employees have consistently burned more fuel than they had stockpiled. At the expense of personnel, paid or not, nonprofit organizations promoted a culture in which being too busy was a badge of honor, lack of work/life balance was bemoaned while also being a flag proudly flown. No more.  

One of the most dramatic impacts of COVID-19 has been the recognition that we can no longer forfeit our own well-being and the well-being of those we work with for the sake of the mission. Burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, and illness are rampant among nonprofit teams. Board members, executives, program directors, and caregivers alike are exploring alternative human resource models and options so that employment becomes more humane and sustainable across the organization and over the long haul.  

As we’ve participated in Zoom rooms over the past two years, we’ve met family pets, kids, houseplants, partners, etc. We’ve seen dining rooms, basements, and garages. In many ways, we are more connected to one another as whole people, not just in our work lives. This whole-person connection is an essential component of well-being. Employers and employees alike are investing in care for the whole person.  

In 2022 MNA is integrating organizational and personnel well-being into our programming as a component of equity, workforce development, financial leadership, wage and benefit packages, and more. We are pursuing grant funding to expand programming and advocacy related to system change so that, in the future, Montana’s nonprofit employees don’t have to choose between meaningful work and making a living. Stay tuned for more on this.  

Well-Being Resources 

Hybrid 

Hybrid events and a hybrid workforce are here to stay.  

Organizations that are successfully intersecting team effectiveness with a remote or hybrid work environment are going to have an advantage with employee recruitment and retention. Employees want to work as part of a team while also maintaining the flexibility to attend to family and personal priorities.  

In many cases hybrid employment practices are advancing performance management practices and issues of equity in the workplace. Executive leaders are being pushed to replace proximity-based relationships with consistent and fair performance standards that apply to all team members, regardless of where they do their work.  

Volunteers are looking for remote volunteer experiences, and program directors have learned that hybrid events and programming are more efficient, and in many cases, more profitable than place-based events. Hybrid is here to stay, and technology is at the forefront, making it all possible.  

MNA will continue offering virtual options even as we return to community-based programs. The 2022 MNA Conference will include both in-person and online convening. MNA’s All-Access Pass brings training within reach for vastly more Montana nonprofit board members, staff members, and volunteers by prioritizing affordable, accessible programming for organizations regardless of location.  

Hybrid Resources 

Technology 

Use of technology in the nonprofit workplace took a quantum leap in 2020 and 2021. Zoom, call-forwarding, Teams, hot spots, social media, video, mobile communications, cybersecurity, and more – these are all areas that exploded with growth faster than we could keep up with it.  Making the case for technology funding is more important than ever for nonprofits, as is finding the right products. Having a technology plan is part and parcel of strategic and financial planning for nonprofits.  

MNA offers several technology products at a discount to members. In addition, we hosted several technology-related Town Halls in 2021. We will soon be offering a 101-level training on digital competency (websites, marketing, and remote productivity) and will be curating resources and exploring how we might bring more tech capacity to our members at discounted prices.  

Technology Resources 

Thanks for tuning in. Next week we will address trends in Giving, Volunteerism, Marketing, and Back Office Services. In coming weeks, we will also highlight information related to ARPA, the economy, and nonprofit civic engagement.  

We’d love to hear your comments on any of the key trends we’re exploring. Please email us with your thoughts, tools you’ve found effective, or additional questions.  

Thank you, and Happy 2022! 

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