The Graveyard of Great HR

Nonprofit organizations are the graveyard of great HR. This was shared with me by a close friend who works in the recruitment industry.

She also noted that once folks go to non-profits they rarely leave to go back to “corporate” work , although a few do go to the middle ground of consulting or opening up their own shops. The mindset of many big and medium-sized companies is that folks who work at nonprofits are as discounted and poor in capabilities as their paychecks.

Well I am here to tell you it’s just not true. Unfortunately big companies with big budgets get to “buy” advertising and the articles and content that go with it in the media. So the non-profit sector gets little if any press play unless they are helping to find a cure for cancer, or in my organizations case – being radical and changing some aspect of society (i.e. education reform). Nonprofit folks also typically spend less time on social media as their organizations typically put their marketing dollars and resources toward fund-raising and awareness. So even if folks are doing great work no one knows about it.

Here are some interesting facts:

 According to a 2012 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit employment represents 10.1 percent of total employment in the United States in 2010, with total employees numbering 10.7 million. The nonprofit workforce is the third largest of all U.S. industries behind retail trade and manufacturing.

During the Great Recession (2007 to 2009), the nonprofit sector gained jobs at an average rate of 1.9 percent per year, while the private sector lost jobs at a rate of 3.7 percent per year.

The average annual growth rate for employment has been higher for nonprofits during the 2000-2010 period at 2.1% whereas the for-profit sector shrank by -0.6%.

Nonprofit employment by sector is approximately 57% for health services, 15% for education, 13% for social assistance, 7% for civic associations, 4% for other, 3% for arts and culture, and 2% for professional services.

Ok, so now that we have a snapshot of the size and scale of nonprofit organizations , we are faced with the question of who is doing “great HR’ in the sector. Truth be told no one really knows.

I will go out on a limb and say there are thousands of folks doing interesting and even innovative work in the sector. We just don’t hear about it very often. That is a tragedy.

We can change that and create a paradigm shift. First let’s get publications in the HR space to write more about successes and do profiles of organizations on the cutting edge. Second, there are hundreds of HR software vendors looking for market share and places to beta test new and different software. Why not partner with a few nonprofits as living laboratories to get the kinks out. It’s a win-win for all. Third let’s get the partnerships between public, private, and nonprofit to share best practices in both directions.

We know Google, GE, Coca-Cola and IBM are doing great HR work. We also know how much money they can throw at it. Nonprofits need to be relentlessly rigorous in getting through each day without the spend. Maybe the big boys can learn from us. Its not about the spend its about the innovation and results.

Based on the data above I would say there is a lot of learning to do.


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