Nonprofits Continue to Hire More Aggressively Than For-Profits in 2017, but the Gap is Narrowing

According to new survey findings, nonprofit organizations have been hiring more aggressively than for-profits for the last several years and will continue to do so in 2017, however the survey indicates that the gap is now narrowing.


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According to the 10th annual Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, released by NonprofitHR, 50% of nonprofits plan to hire in 2017 (down seven percentage points from 2016), while the corporate hiring outlook is the best it has been in a decade, with 40% of for-profit companies planning to hire in 2017 (up four percentage points from 2016 according to the CareerBuilder’s Annual Job Forecast). This narrowing gap is due at least in part to the growth of social enterprise and purpose-driven business.

However, most nonprofits are not improving their talent and culture practices in order to thrive in the face of this growing competition. Sixty-four percent of nonprofits surveyed reported they do not have a formal recruitment strategy, 81% reported they do not have a formal retention strategy, and 52% reported they do not have a formal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy.

Key findings from the 2017 survey include:

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Projected Growth

  • Nonprofits have been hiring more aggressively than for-profits for the last several years, but the gap is now narrowing.


  • 64% of nonprofits do not have a formal recruitment strategy.
  • 56% of nonprofits have no plans to change the way they source for talent in 2017.
  • 28% of nonprofits cite an inability to hire qualified staff within a limited budget as their top staffing challenge in 2017. This was the most commonly cited top challenge among nonprofits surveyed.


  • 81% of nonprofits do not have a formal retention strategy.
  • 27% of nonprofits have plans to develop a formal retention strategy in 2017.
  • 11% of nonprofits said they expected their total turnover rate to increase in 2017, while 59% said they expected it to stay the same.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • 52% of nonprofits do not have a DEI strategy or program in place.
  • 42% of nonprofits name balancing ethnic/cultural diversity as their greatest diversity challenge, while 35% list retaining staff under the age of 30.

“The results of this year’s Nonprofit Employment Practices survey clearly illustrate the need for nonprofits to prioritize their people, and the talent and culture strategies that support them,” said Lisa Brown Alexander, CEO of Nonprofit HR—in a press release.

“With social enterprises and purpose-driven businesses experiencing tremendous growth, it is only going to get more difficult for nonprofits to attract and retain the top performers they need to advance their missions. The time for organizations to get serious about recruitment, retention, culture and human capital is now.”

The complete results of the 2017 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey can be viewed here.