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Senior Fundraisers, Managers in Demand, but Economy Stifling Consistent Hiring

(Nov. 15, 2004) Fundraising is one of the key skills that charities are looking for in senior managers, but a lagging economy is prohibiting many organizations from hiring, according to a new study by Boston-based nonprofit Bridgestar.

Based on responses provided by 138 executive directors of charities in Sept. 2004, the study concludes that while the economy has shown signs of recovery in recent months, the nonprofit labor market is likely to remain unstable for several more months. However, there are opportunities for individuals with specific skills, especially with larger organizations.

The top two skill sets charities are seeking in senior managers are, by a wide margin, program oversight and development (60 percent) and fundraising (54 percent). Other skills sought include general management (42 percent), operations (36 percent) and finance (29 percent).

In other positive signs for employment, 51 percent of respondents reported at least one departure of a senior manager, while 61 percent added managers over the same period. Resignations accounted for 44 percent of departures, while restructuring was cited by only 12 percent of respondents, suggesting that recent turnover has been driven more by the normal ebb and flow of employment than because of layoffs caused by the economy.

Roughly one-third of all respondents plan to hire at least one senior manager over the next six months. However, less than half of organizations that reported a departure are planning to make a hire during that time. Future hiring for senior managers is lagging both for organizations that have lost employees and for those that have not experienced turnover.

These findings suggest that some nonprofits are delaying replacement of departing senior managers, and few are considering expansion at the current time. Some of the delay may also be explained by the difficulty some charities are experiencing in finding qualified candidates for open positions.

The survey showed little difference in hiring patterns among charitable subsectors. Human service charities reported the highest active recruiting levels, with 33 percent, while youth development organizations reported the lowest (26 percent).

Bridgestar, an initiative of the Bridgespan Group, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to developing leadership for the nonprofit sector.

The survey is available in the October issue of Leadership Matters, Bridgestar's monthly newsletter, and on the Bridgestar website (free of charge, but registration is required).

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