Source:  Chronicle of Philanthropy By Maria Di Mento

Forty-three percent of nonprofits expect to add new workers this year, but as the economy improves, charities also anticipate that they will face turnover as workers get better job offers elsewhere and more older employees decide to retire after putting off such ideas during the downturn.

The share of groups forecasting plans to hire new workers is about the same as the percentage that said they added workers last year, a sign that the economy has recovered enough that more groups are hiring than laying people off or not hiring to save money.

Among the 450 nonprofits surveyed, health and human-service organizations were most likely to report plans to hire in 2012. A third of the groups surveyed plan to augment the number of people who provide direct services, and nearly as many groups are seeking fundraisers and program managers.

The findings show a better picture than last year, when only one-third of nonprofits predicted they would add staff members.

The study was conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions, a human-resources consulting firm, and the Improve Group, a consultancy that works with charities and other organizations. Keeping Good Workers

As the job market grows stronger, the report’s authors say, nonprofits should be paying closer attention to keeping their most talented workers. However, just one in four groups has made a deliberate effort to retain workers, the survey found.

The workers charities struggle to keep on the job are often those who provide direct services, with 34 percent of respondents saying those jobs are the hardest to keep filled.

“The good news is that organizations are not in retrenchment mode like they were a few years ago,” says Lisa Brown Morton, chief executive of Nonprofit HR Solutions. “But if we don’t pay closer attention to turnover, voluntary resignations are going to go through the roof.” Pay Challenges

Not surprisingly, the report found that salaries at nonprofits had a direct effect on turnover rates. Thirty-four percent of organizations cited an inability to offer competitive salaries as the biggest challenge in retaining workers, while 22 percent said an inability to promote top-performing employees was the chief reason for losing people.

Ms. Brown Morton says the lack of money and promotions are only two components of an employee’s decision to leave. Other factors such as workload, whether their work is enriching, and how much or how often the staff member is involved in decision making also matter, especially when an organization cannot afford raises.

“If they are given opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way, to be given the opportunity to be seen as experts, to speak and present outside of their organization,” says Ms. Brown Morton, “those are all more intangible things that contribute to higher levels of engagement and satisfaction and therefore address the issue of retention and premature turnover.”

The survey also found that at least half of nonprofits thought ethnic or cultural diversity in their staff was “very important,” while 35 percent said age and gender diversity were “very important.” However 43 percent of the nonprofits said they had a formal diversity strategy in place.

The “2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey” is available free at nonprofithr.com.