GWYNN OAK, Mar. — On a sunny fall afternoon, a group of children are enjoying their time outside. They aren’t at a park, though; it’s part of the nonprofit Y in Central Maryland.
“We work with more young people than any organization in central Maryland,” said The Y CEO John Hoey.
We spoke with Hoey at the Y Head Start Program, which gets funding from the federal government. Lately, however, hiring staff for this work has become a real challenge.
“We've raised our lowest wages at least 15%,” Hoey said.
Yet, it hasn’t been enough. The Y in Central Maryland serves 300,000 people, with a staff of 1,700.
Right now, they currently have 300 job openings.
“We only have a finite number of dollars,” Hoey said. “And so, we can pay people as much as we're funded.”
Normally, there would be 17 children in one of their classrooms, but because of the nonprofit labor shortage, there’s none in one of them because they haven’t been able to hire the needed staff.
“We've had to close some Ys. We have to limit hours,” Hoey said. “Our pools are open less time. We've had to make hard decisions on some after-school sites where we just can't staff them.”
David L. Thompson is with the National Council of Nonprofits, which represents a network of 25,000 nonprofits across the country.
“It's a significant problem for nonprofits,” he said.
The services each nonprofit offers may be unique, but they share the same problem. A survey from the National Council of Nonprofits found that 80% of the organizations surveyed said salary has become a major issue in hiring, with real consequences.
“We hear about the labor shortage for restaurants, and you may have to spend another minute or two in the drive-thru,” Thompson said. “For nonprofits, literally the case in Montana for a domestic violence shelter, people are having to wait a month because there are not enough staff.”
He said trying to fundraise a shortfall is a short-term solution to a problem needing a longer-term fix. That means possibly revisiting contracts some nonprofits may have signed with local governments to provide services, as well as other legislative moves.
“There's the something called the Employee Retention Tax Credit that Congress created during the pandemic that expired and needs to be extended,” Thompson said. “That's something that Congress can do right now and it has bipartisan support.”
So far, nonprofits are just having to make do because raising wages and passing on the cost to those who need their services simply isn’t an option, the way it is in the private sector.
“You know, I'm not running private fitness clubs, I'm not running corporate afterschool programs and preschools. So, price is a limiting factor,” Hoey said. “And, at some point, you would suspect the labor market will come back into some sense of equilibrium. But right now, it's in turmoil.”
It’s a turmoil they are now trying to weather, in order to climb back to a sense of normalcy.