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Nonprofit Organizations Have Hard Time Finding Tech Talent

For nonprofits trying to finding IT workers, 70% say the task is extremely challenging or somewhat challenging.

Seven in 10 nonprofit organizations that are trying to recruit IT workers are finding the effort difficult, says a soon-to-be-released report by Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.

Of 790 nonprofits surveyed by Johns Hopkins Institute, only 37% reported that they've been trying to recruit IT personnel. That's a relatively low percentage of nonprofits looking for IT staff, considering that 84% of the nonprofits were recruiting all sorts of professional and support personnel. For instance, 81% are trying to recruit administrative assistants and 56% are trying to find fund-raisers, according to the report.

However, for those nonprofits trying to finding IT workers, 70% say the task is extremely challenging or somewhat challenging (28% and 42%, respectively).

Finding IT people is more difficult for nonprofits than recruiting administrative assistants; only 51% said that was challenging. However, fund-raising staff is even more challenging for nonprofits to find than IT people. Eighty-four percent of nonprofits said it was challenging to recruit fund-raising staff.

The study also found that a particular recruitment challenge for nonprofits is finding IT people of color, said Stephanie Lessans Geller, a Johns Hopkins Institute researcher and one of the authors of the report, "The Nonprofit Workforce Crisis: Real Or Imagined?" Nearly half -- 49% -- of nonprofits say it's extremely challenging to recruit IT staff of color, compared with only 28% saying recruiting all IT staff was extremely challenging.

Among the likely reasons why fewer nonprofits are recruiting IT staff compared with other job positions is that nonprofit organizations frequently have smaller technology-related budgets.

However, that's not always the case, Geller said in an interview. Although nonprofits include charities running on slim budgets, they also include other types of organizations such as museums, universities, and health care providers. IT spending by health care companies has been on the upswing in recent years as many are implementing electronic medical records and other IT-enabled systems.

Also, many nonprofit organizations tend to have smaller IT staffs or frequently rely on contractors, Geller said.

Among the reasons nonprofit organizations find it difficult to recruit IT people -- as well other types of workers -- is the persistent perception that nonprofits pay less than for-profit organizations, she said.

"The wage issue is a myth," Geller said. In fact, some nonprofit organizations pay more for key positions, she said.

Still, the perception of lower wages was named by 87% of nonprofits as a major reason in recruiting staff. The perception of the noncompetitive benefits packages was named as a major reason for recruitment difficulties by 65% of nonprofits. Finally, the perception that career advancement opportunities are limited at nonprofits was named as a major recruitment hurdle by 71% of nonprofits.

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