Baby boomers challenge non-profits

by 08 Jun 2007

NON-PROFIT organisations could be hard hit by talent shortages exacerbated by the large cohort of baby boomers soon entering the retirement years, but there will be opportunities as well, according to a recent report.

“While growth in the non-profit sector is outpacing growth in the rest of the economy, talent shortages are already affecting critical service sectors, including healthcare and social services, in which non-profits are heavily represented,” said Jill Casner-Lotto, author of the report for the Conference Board.

“Also, widespread executive-level and leadership skill shortages currently affecting many non-profits are predicted to get much worse as the sector expands and experienced executives retire.”

Non-profits have not invested significantly in their human resource management, putting their limited resources instead toward their mission. In addition, many funders restrict their support to specific programs or services as opposed to broader human resource development. This under-investment in managing talent has led to some of the challenges non-profits now face.

Many non-profit organisations, particularly the smaller and mid-size ones, lack the bench strength or staffing depth, as well as the time and money, to develop younger leaders coming up in the organisation.

These labour shortages are occurring at a critical time for non-profits. In this era of increasing corporate governance, board members are holding non-profits more accountable. Also, growth and consolidation in the sector have resulted in larger organisations that often require more complex management skills.

The advent of retirement for a vast majority of baby boomers also brings opportunity for non-profit organisations.

“Baby boomers, compared with previous generations, are healthier, more educated, and wealthier than any previous generation, and more inclined to stay in the workforce,” said Diane Piktialis, mature workforce program leader at the Conference Board.

“Many current older employees plan to work past traditional retirement age, but not always with their current employers. This burgeoning trend provides a time-tested source of labour for non-profits.”

A considerable number of baby boomer employees in the private sector are considering a move to the non-profit sector where they can use their experience and skills in social-purpose work.

Non-profits can tap into other sectors’ talent pools and their own mature workers to recruit experienced leaders, staff, and volunteers, said Casner-Lotto.


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