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‘Everything is going up but your wages remain the same’: Nonprofits struggling to hire and retain workers

A new report from Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board (EMOWPDB) found local businesses were slightly improving in their recovery over the last year while nonprofits are struggling.

Data collected from the regional EmployerOne Survey in January of this year showed that nonprofits have found it difficult to hire and retain qualified workers.

“The data shows that local nonprofit organizations are having real difficulty offering stable, well-compensated work,” said Paul Seale, manager of Public Policy, Advocacy, and Impact for Pillar Nonprofit Network. “As a major employer and economic driver in our region and a major social driver, a struggling nonprofit sector will likely slow recovery for the whole region.”

The new report found that 65 per cent of nonprofit employers reported much higher rates of employees quitting and permanent layoffs compared to businesses.

In addition, nonprofits found the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impacts as a factor in retaining workers.

“It's been extremely challenging for recruitment and retention,” said John McVeigh, manager of accommodations with Community Living London, Ont., a nonprofit that assists people with developmental disabilities.

According to McVeigh, the organization lost 30 per cent of its workforce during the pandemic.

“But we’re always looking to grow and expand and there’s a huge wait list of people that needs supports which requires growth in your staff and not just keeping what you have,” he explained.

With less funding coming in, many nonprofit employers are having difficulty offering stable work with a higher salary to new or current employees.

“It's not just our operating costs rising but personal costs. My staff, their rent goes up, their grocery bill goes up, everything is going up,” said Deborah Armstrong, programs director at Nokee Kwe, an indigenous-led employment and education centre. “And yet, our funding remains the same and wages remain the same.”

The executive director for the EMOWPDB hopes this data will show local governments the need for economic recovery in the sector.

“With local unemployment rates at record lows, the region has a very competitive labour market. Any imbalance in organizations’ ability to compete will likely exacerbate current trends,” said Emilian Siman, executive director at EMOWPDB.

“This year’s data suggests that there are organizations in every sector that are challenged to meet their workforce needs, but while more businesses might be reaching that ‘cautious optimism’ stage we associate with pandemic recovery, more nonprofits are reporting real difficulties,” said Siman.

“I think we need to people to understand there needs to be investment in the sector in organizational costs and core costs,” Seale said. “But we’re optimistic.” Top Stories

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