Nonprofits and the Gig Economy

Since the economic downturn, much has been written about the demise of the “long-job” (like in the ancient days of the 1970’s when people worked at the same company for a couple of decades or more) and the rise of the gig economy; a freelance, free-floating maze of projects, social media promotion and leveraging almost everyone you ever met at a conference.

Possible factors for the increased popularity of the freelancing lifestyle (or a side hustle plus your day job)  are the recession and related layoffs or “re-organizations” and the ideals of Millennials, namely, purposefully employment with lots of freedom, a job far from cubicle walls and the end to the traditional workday.  They don’t plan to toil in abject misery for 40-plus years, and why should they? They are already reeling from the economy with nearly a quarter of them living with their parents while still believing in a brighter financial future.  Success for them will look much different than that of their Boomer parents, but their adaptability to a shrinking employment sector through near-constant skill acquisition and the ability to effortlessly slide into a spot on a new team around a new table will ensure that they do indeed experience success.

Nonprofit employment data from the 2010 Nonprofit Retention and Vacancy Report from Opportunity Knocks illustrate the serious  impact of the economy on the nonprofit workforce as layoff or termination from a nonprofit organization rose from 28% in 2008 to 36% in 2010.  Also in 2010, just under 20% of nonprofit employees reported leaving their jobs voluntarily after less than one year despite the bleak economic picture. The majority of those persons went to work at another nonprofit. According to the  2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey from Nonprofit HR Solutions , 43% of participating nonprofits plan to hire in 2012 (up from 34 in 2010), but only 25% have a formal employee retention strategy.  Might such data indicate organizational gaps, not a general sector weakness in retention of a qualified workforce?  Is it also possible that this is somewhat related to the growing acceptance of the gig economy and the end of the myth about having “too many jobs on your resume?” While the lack of financial security, benefits and camaraderie – unless you are lucky enough to work with a collaborative with other freelancers – are serious drawbacks (trust me on this)  to the gig lifestyle, there is something to be said about finding or creating the right job for you rather than relying on someone else to do so.

I think that it’s too soon to determine if the gig economy was a response to an unprecedented economic decline or a major shift in the workforce status quo, or a little bit of both.  But is it really just a Millennial thing?  I know Boomers who reinvented themselves via the gig economy and a member of Generation X who is now the Executive Director of the organization she has been a part of for over 20 years  (although the plural of anecdote is not necessarily data).  With a still-volatile economic outlook, will the next decade see a strengthening of the trend away from a centralized employment structure and back to the mobile offices of the skilled, client-juggling freelancers?

Are you a current or former nonprofit professional now part of the gig-based economy?  Would you return to a nonprofit organization on a full-time basis and give up your gigs? Why/why not?



Report Shows Pennsylvania’s Middle Class Struggling as they Face the Age of Austerity

Today’s news that zero jobs had been added to the national economy in the month of August acts as a wet blanket on the hopeful chatter about the end of the recession, particularly for the un-and underemployed and their families.  The continuing impact of the recession and related budgetary cuts on Pennsylvania’s middle class is outlined in a new report from The Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania entitled, Under Attack: Pennsylvania’s Middle Class and the Jobs Crisis. The report details the economic challenges facing millions of Pennsylvania residents as they face the age of austerity in the form of severe budget cuts, less access to benefits, declining pay for most and higher costs, especially in college education.

The Center released some highlights of the report, including,

  • The 2010 unemployment rate in Pennsylvania (8.7%) was the highest rate in the state in 30 years.
  • Pennsylvania’s higher education in-state tuition average ($10,761) is far above the national average of $6,829.
  • The average debt ($27,066) of Pennsylvania college graduates entering the workforce was the 7th highest in the nation.

The report, co-published by Keystone Research Center and the national policy center Demos, is available for download at the Center’s website.

Nonprofit Helps Pennsylvania Technology Companies Navigate the Recession

The Technology Collaborative (TTC), a non-profit, technology-based economic development organization with a mission to grow companies in the areas of robotics, cyber-security and digital technology, recently released the 2010 data on their activities with member companies across Pennsylvania. Points of interest include:

  • Funding 11 project teams a total of $1.2 million for technology commercialization
  • Providing subsidies to 25 Collaborative member companies for worker training and/or internships
  • Receiving a grant to assist in making Southwestern Pennsylvania a desirable region for world-wide robotics companies

Learn more about The Technology Collaborative (TTC) programs and accomplishments at their website.

Pittsburgh Nonprofits Selected for Global Youth Development Initiative

BNY Mellon is launching a $6 million, five-year workforce development initiative to assist youth transitioning into independence and adulthood. BNY Mellon will partner with public and non-profit agencies in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia to enhance education, vocational training and career development opportunities for these at-risk youth.

In Pittsburgh, BNY Mellon is partnering with Auberle, Familylinks, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania and Holy Family Institute to assist with the transition of youth aging out of the foster care system. Each organization will receive $250,000 for programming during the first year of the initiative.

Hear more about this global initiative from Bob Kelly, CEO of BNY Mellon: