Labor shortage hits nonprofit organizations harder than other business sectors

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Posted at 7:20 AM, Nov 19, 2021

CLEVELAND — Whether it be homelessness, hunger, abandoned animals, or whatever the problem may be, there’s likely a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to fixing it. Labor shortages are affecting nonprofits differently than other business sectors.

Jazmin Long is the president of Birthing Beautiful Communities.

“We will probably serve 500 families this year,” she said.

The nonprofit covers Cuyahoga and Summit County. It offers support and wrap-around services to pregnant and postpartum moms to reduce infant mortality and increase racial health equity in Northeast Ohio.

“Our work is very important. We have a zero infant death rate among our clients and our program participants. I’m very proud of that because we know community-based solutions are an effective way to tackle infant mortality,” she said.

She knows their work, among other nonprofits, is the backbone of the community and she said that’s why funding is so important to her.

“I’m very strategic and I’ve really worked hard to advocate and lobby for this organization, for this kind of state funding,” Long said.

Birthing Beautiful Communities received 1.4 million dollars from Governor Mike DeWine's office.

“We are incredibly grateful for that. We have a lot of foundational support in our community and we also get funding from the Ohio Department of Medicaid,” she said. “People are talking about racial equity. They’re caring about health equity. They’re saying health equity matters and, to me, we are the premier health equity organization in Northeast Ohio.”

She said they’ve raised wages for their doulas and have hired even more employees at the organization, but not every nonprofit is doing nearly as well as Birthing Beautiful Communities.

Rick Cohen is the chief operating officer for the National Council of Nonprofits.

The National Council of Nonprofits is the nation's largest network of nonprofits. In October 2021, the network posted an online survey to gauge the scope of the labor shortage problem.

“We're still down more than 500,000 nonprofit employees from the beginning of the pandemic, that's half a million people who are helping people in their community and we need those people back,” said Cohen.

He said there are various reasons that nonprofits are hurting more than private businesses when it comes to employee shortage, citing it’s partly due to burnout but mostly because they can’t raise wages to attract more workers.

“Nonprofits are really boxed in because we want to raise wages, but the funding just isn't there,” said Cohen.

He said nonprofits can only raise wages if funding is sufficient.

“A lot of nonprofits operate with government contracts that pay a certain amount, and those contracts aren't being renegotiated to allow nonprofits to pay their workers more, and so we can't really compete when Amazon or Target or Walmart raise their wages,” said Cohen.

Long said she has made it her mission to get their work recognized by community stakeholders and encourages other nonprofit leaders to do the same.

“You have to really get in front of people and talk to them and share your story and advocate for yourself,” said Long.

Cohen said they’re working to talk to government leaders to open up contracts for nonprofit funding and raise wages. They’re also lobbying for additional relief, but in the meantime are encouraging everyone to donate when they can.

“It’s a potential tragedy at hand,” he said. “When we have a worker shortage, that means people in the community that can't get access to services that they need.”