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Non-profit employment trends: what’s happening with rewards, retention and salaries

Posted on 28/11/2019 by Tracey George MIRP

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This year has been one of the most interesting but challenging periods for non-profit and public sector teams. With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and added tension from skills shortages, professionals have been facing an increasing amount of pressure. In fact, according to Third Sector’s Charity Pulse survey, almost 50% of charity workers say they are already seeing the effects of Brexit on their charities. Given this current climate, we have seen an uplift in temporary recruitment in 2019, with continued trends for more flexible working options and the adoption of more intelligent diversity and inclusion plans. This week we’ve published the full results from our latest Non-Profit Salary, Rewards & Retention Survey 2019, and unsurprisingly, trends varied within charities, higher education and membership organisations, as well as across job functions, although for some categories, results were uniform across the board. Here are some of the key employment trends that you need to be aware of.

2019 Non-profit employment trends


There are a number of challenges non-profit organisations face when attracting and retaining employees, and -  as it is for most industries-  attrition is a serious problem that must be addressed. Getting a handle on employee turnover is vital for ensuring a successful future and improving the working lives of existing employees. High-levels of attrition can impact culture, workloads, stress and morale.

A large aspect of retention is whether employees feel that their current role is helping them develop their career. According to our survey, 33% of candidates feel their current role isn’t helping to progress their longer-term career, which is a marginal increase on last years’ results of 31%. This shows how vital it is that employers offer good training and development schemes and encourage lifelong learning. 

The willingness to accept the right offer when it comes along was reflected in the survey, with the number of employees who would move for the right role increasing by 10%. However, the number of active job seekers overall who are planning a career move in the next 12 months has decreased on last year’s figures.

Active job seekers within the sector stated their preferred method for searching for a new role, with recruitment consultancies remaining number one (72%,) closely followed by sector specific job boards (70%) and LinkedIn (56%.)


Despite having the opportunity to develop careers and learn skills that will help long-term goals, salaries, of course, still play a huge part in ensuring employees are happy, motivated and largely influence whether a person will accept a job or not. In 2019, the ONS reported an overall 4% salary income increase year on year, with the non-profit sector seeing an increase of 1.5% on average.

The survey also revealed that 31% of respondents have asked for a pay rise in the last 12 months, and, of those, 36% were unsuccessful. According to the data accumulated from the study, managers and above were more successful in obtaining a pay rise.  Of those that asked and were successful, the majority received a standard cost of living pay rise (1%-3%.) It’s understandable that charities are often unable to offer huge pay rises, as managing funds, and justifying all costs is crucial. Spending at large must be directed towards the cause, and bonuses or salary rises can often be received with backlash from the public.

Ensuring that organisations are open and honest about pay is crucial to build trusting relationships and improve retention. Unfortunately, many organisations are still failing to see the value of this. Half of respondents overall said their organisation does not have a transparent pay scale and this figure decreased to 30% for those working within HR.

The majority of those surveyed also expressed that they felt salaries had stayed the same over the last year, closely followed by ‘increased a little’. This was noted across all organisation types, and has remained consistent over the last few years.

Rewards and motivators

Our study reveals that “higher salary” remains the number one motivator, which has been consistent in recent years. However, it’s now well known that many highly-skilled professionals look beyond pay when it comes to motivations at work. This is particularly true for those working for non-profit organisations. The individuals drawn to the sector are often interested in contributing to a larger cause, and look for organisations that have corporate social responsibility messaging that aligns with theirs.  Interestingly, our study revealed that “a new challenge” is now the second biggest motivator for employees, knocking “better work/life balance” to third place.

Unsurprisingly, motivators differed by job level. For junior level roles (Assistant/Coordinator and Executive/Officer) job security was a big incentive, but this gradually decreased until it was a minimal factor at Director level. A new challenge and better work life balance were more important to those at Manager or Head of and Director level whilst a higher salary remained consistent across all roles.

To read the results from the full report and find out more on non-profit employment trends, click here.