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Iowa nonprofits feel effects of labor shortage

Some Iowa nonprofits say they are having a hard time competing in a tight labor market.

DES MOINES, Iowa — By now, many have seen the signs around town that say "We're Hiring" or "Help Wanted."  The tight labor market has been affecting business across the state for months, but now, some Iowa non-profits are feeling it too.

"We have really seen an impact probably in the last two months with the workforce," said Christina Smith, president and CEO of Community Support Advocates. "Industry-wide, it's almost like, post-pandemic, that kind of great resignation is hitting our industry really hard."

CSA serves about 1,900 individuals and families struggling with mental health issues or mental disabilities.

"People rely on these services to live on their own. We help people in crisis," Smith said.

These days, CSA has more openings than usual and fewer applicants.

"They're [employees] leaving the industry and going to for-profit, and that's hard for nonprofit industry, because we have a more difficult time competing," Smith said.

The pandemic has played a part in all of this, according to Smith.

"All of us are stopping and pausing and looking at our lives, reassessing," she said.

This is a nationwide trend.  According to a survey conducted by NonprofitHR, nearly half of nonprofit employees surveyed said they plan to find new jobs.  And nearly a quarter of those would leave the nonprofit sector altogether.

Teree Caldwell-Johnson, president and CEO of the Oakridge Neighborhood and Oakridge Neighborhood Services said Oakridge isn't experiencing those same trends.  She believes nonprofits have a unique advantage. 

"Opportunities for employees who are really looking for that balance, that balance of not only utilizing their skill set, but also in an organization that's making a difference in the lives of individuals," Caldwell-Johnson said.

That's an idea Smith echoes, which could be light at the end of the tunnel. 

"The long-term solution is really, really looking at how we engage around the workforce in these industries. This work is so critical, and staff are so amazing. We need to find ways to encourage young people to see this as their career," she said.

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