When we think of successful nonprofits, we think of the benefits they create for society: how many children they serve; how many hungry people they feed; or how many acres of wetlands have been preserved. We rarely consider the societal benefit of jobs created. Yet, the nonprofit sector provides 10% of the jobs in the United States. Recently, when interviewing a number of executives of large nonprofits about the health of their organizations, I was struck by how often they had jobs on their minds. During economically tough times, a major focus of theirs was to provide employment, and to keep people employed. While they knew that their first responsibility as a nonprofit was to achieve the organization's mission, they also saw their responsibility to keep their workers working, and thus sustain the benefits this employment provided to the broader community.
In seeking to retain jobs while maintaining or increasing mission impact, they got creative. Some looked for new businesses they could enter. Some looked for merger candidates. Others banked on future opportunities as yet undefined, spending down assets to keep their work and their workforce going.
Through these interviews, I was struck by the balance these leaders were seeking to achieve. Their decisions were not easy. They cared about their organization's mission --and -- they were compassionate and attentive to the needs of their workforce and sought to maintain jobs in a tough economy. Knowing that their employees were critical to the their organization's ability to achieve its mission, they found ways to retain those employees. I saw nonprofits not only benefiting society through their mission, they were also benefiting society by creating jobs.
A recent article here in the Nonprofit Quarterly provides an interesting overview of the economic impact of the growing nonprofit sector, with relevance to this blog post.