Where Are All The Jobs
April 15, 2009 Tom Pope
Patrick Shields was scrambling to help jobseekers for Global Recruitment Specialists (GRS) in Norwalk, Conn. As executive director, he lost three clients from natural resources or environmental groups that pulled contracts. GRS handles human resource services for non-governmental organizations with international operations.
What does that mean for jobseekers? Where are the jobs and which ones offer the most opportunity in the economic crisis?
“We’re seeing scientific groups still working with us,” he said. “The funding is different because many scientific firms are funded from governmental ways compared to endowments.”
Shields works with bilateral organizations like the World Bank. Meanwhile, environmental groups, like Conservation International or the International Fund for Animal Welfare, have been hurt by investments that have shrunk endowments, he explained.
“In general, endowments had funds invested in the market,” he said. “Those from the bilaterals or government haven’t been pulling back.”
The economic crunch might help bring much needed talent into the nonprofit leadership ranks. Organizations will need an estimated 640,000 senior managers during the next decade, according to a 2006 study by The Bridgespan Group. Even with sector consolidation, people working longer and conservative turnover rates, the survey expects at least 330,000 new managers will be needed to fill in leadership gaps.
Jobseekers still can find opportunities in international work with organizations. “The health environment still has critical needs around the globe,” he said. “There are skilled positions at the director or program level.”
Hot positions are those that focus on the ability of that person to bring in money, according to Shields. The senior advisor, director and executive director level would command more attention than the branding position. “One organization didn’t feel that branding was core to making money,” he said.
Don’t expect the federal stimulus package to help right away. “That package will be extra money,” he said. “The U.S. government goes from October to October so they committed funds already for this year.”
A top-level position could be negotiating contracts so that would be crucial while the branding position doesn’t bring in money. Contract lengths so far are not affected in terms of changes to cope with the downturn.
Part of the answer to where to find jobs hinges on where funding comes into the nonprofit, according to Lester M. Salamon, the director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“Those employers dependent on philanthropy will be most affected,” he said. “Those by government funding could still depend on state level cuts.”
Agencies dealing with Medicaid and are funded by the state that suffers budget cuts could face job layoffs. Many health providers could be in a better spot than arts and culture organizations. That would include nursing homes and social service agencies.
“We have data about the recession of 2001/02 where nonprofits suffered less severely than for-profits,” he said. “Sharp cutbacks happened in the for-profit world while the entitlement programs in nonprofits allowed those agencies to hold their own.”
Salamon’s data reveal that benefits would be the first area hit, rather than wages. “Our surveys on health benefits show the packages for the poorer nonprofits are fairly good compared to for-profits of the same size,” he said. “Pressure now could change that with the downturn.” Salamon cited the closing of some arts institutions, such as an opera company in Baltimore, as examples of emerging bankruptcies.
Some retention figures could boost the spirit of jobseekers. A study from mid-2008 showed 85 percent of larger organizations with a significant part of the labor force had hired people in the previous year without suffering a significant turnover since.
“The interesting thing was that there was almost an equal negative and positive result displayed,” Salamon said. “Some said the bottom line was hurt while others said the hard times helped them make wise decisions in hiring better people.”
Organizations are getting savvy about how to use personnel. “Maybe there’s a consolidation of jobs,” Salamon said. “Organizations running five to eight businesses are trying to find a way to allocate costs and which parts stay or go.”
According to the report, Nonprofit Workforce Crisis: Real or Imagined Recruitment Spring ’08, nonprofits reported facing special challenges in recruiting diverse professional and support staff. Around 28 percent of organizations listed the task was “extremely challenging” to recruit information technology personnel of diverse backgrounds.
Managers that have foresight realize that the fundraising position is the revenue generator, according to Nancy Racette, the chief operating officer and partner of Development Resources Incorporated in Arlington, Va., a search firm that focuses on fundraising.
“Organizations are still hiring generalists in fundraising,” she said.
Her comments cover directors of development and major gifts, although she sees a decline in direct mail people. “We’re not seeing a lot of change in the market right now,” she said. “History has shown the largest drop in donations was 10 percent during the 1970s and if we were to lose 20 percent now, there still would be billions.”
More people are applying for those fundraising jobs. “A major gifts position at a university received 178 resumès and maybe 50 could possibly be considered qualified candidates,” she said.
“People don’t know what the outcome of the market will be,” she said. “Organizations that continue to budget the fundraising positions will come out on the positive side of the downturn.”
The idea of a strong demand for development jobs is echoed by Karen F. Beavor, CEO and president of the Atlanta-based Georgia Center for Nonprofits and the online jobs board OpportunityKnocks.org.
“People leading individual giving campaigns are still in demand,” she said, “especially those with specific experience in research and development.”
The degree of impact on the nonprofit sector job scene depends on the geographic location and specific link with corporate donors. For example, the Bernard Madoff investment scandal is hurting nonprofits in the New York area but not affecting California as much. Job losses in Las Vegas are hurting nonprofits in Nevada, while the housing deflation hit groups in Georgia. “The degree of job losses depends on where nonprofits are getting their money,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be in Detroit right now.”
Jobseekers might aim for large agencies. The larger the nonprofit, the more employees, unless it’s a research-based entity, such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in New York City, which usually maintains smaller staffs but still had layoffs.
“The larger you are, the more growth,” she said. “When the place is very small or new, they will put a lot of capital into growing the business or branding compared to an organization with an established brand.”
Smaller organizations, such as community churches, would have more problems with job opportunities. “They don’t have reserve funds or a lot of padding to land new people so we see a lot more struggling and going out of business,” she said.
That poses a problem for jobseekers. Around 73 percent of nonprofits have revenue less than $500,000 with a majority well less than $250,000, according to Beavor.
Most entities are looking to do more with less, according to Pamela Bol Riess, of pbr Executive Search in New York City. “They try to maximize the capability of the staff in place,” she said. “If the position is a nonessential position, then once that is open, they will spread the workload over the staff rather than hire to fill the spot.”
In New York City, the arts are the hardest hit because they rely on endowment campaigns. “Capital has been suspended in some cases,” she said. “That doesn’t mean every development job is eliminated, although it could mean the special gifts people are being scaled back or eliminated.”
The area of opportunities parallels the for-profit sector she explained. “Hospitals and education are growing in general,” she said. “Higher ed and large healthcare centers, like hospitals, are probably not hit as hard.”
A link exists between the diminishing number of jobs and a significant loss of 15 percent from the state budget, according to Douglas Sauer, executive director of the Council of Community Services of New York State in Albany, N.Y.
“Some professional positions are seeing a growth with more compliance officers or those in accountability,” he said. “More of a need in particular are those positions in Medicaid because agencies are looking to stop fraud.”
Wage positions historically see a high demand for direct care workers, according to Sauer. Those include Head Start teachers, day care counselors, home aids, and residential care workers. “That happens because the salary is not very high and has a large turnover,” he said. “One high demand area in large cities are the bilingual skills that attract a premium with top dollars,” he said.
The 15 percent decrease seems to be across the board in the New York state budget. While a difference exists between rural and urban communities, the changes in an urban setting are more sweeping because budget cuts affect large organizations.
“Many nonprofits have taken money for years that haven’t fully paid for services so they rely on a margin from a credit line or fundraising,” Sauer said. “Now that margin has gone and the program ends.”
The niche area of professional research universities either has a hiring freeze, or like Harvard University, sent word that budgets are about to be cut, according to Katina Leodas, president of the Leodas Search Group in Boston.
Academic medical centers aren’t using the word cuts, although growth has slowed. “Clients are asked to do more with less,” she said. “With fewer staff and resources, they are still doing strategic hiring without using search firms,” she said.
What about the overflow of resumès? “It’s too soon to say what the quality of the applications are,” she said. “If people are getting laid off from smaller nonprofits, then there should be lots of good development people looking for jobs.”
Jobseekers should focus on finance and fundraising posts or temporary placement in administration for database work, according to Nurys Harrigan, CEO of Careers In Nonprofits, a search firm that covers Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Associations are still in a hiring mode and Harrigan is spending more time going through resumès. “We always had a ton of resumès,” she said. “Now people are sorting through those to make sure they get the right people.”
The number of phone calls looking to speak to her has doubled since September. How should people prepare? “Make sure you have a good work history,” she said. NPT
Tom Pope, a New York City-based journalist, writes about management issues.