The Wethos Collective -- Blog

Five Nonprofit Workplace Trends — And What They Mean For Freelancers.

Posted by Amber Smith on Jan 2, 2019 5:08:08 AM
Amber Smith
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Perhaps not obviously so, the nonprofit and freelance economies are interconnected. When policies are enacted that mean less government support for nonprofit organizations, that means the pressure on these organizations to fill gaps in human services, such as providing support for education, health, and to fight poverty increases. And that means already strained nonprofits need a larger workforce to help address these big needs — leading to half of surveyed nonprofits reporting plans to increase their staff size in 2017. At the same time, more than half of all employers across the sectors are seeking contract workers.

Many folks are currently gravitating towards meaningful work in the nonprofit sector, and yet many others are drawn to the flexibility and creative challenges of a freelancing lifestyle. Throw the two together, and you get a subculture of employees itching to do good through their work without wanting to sacrifice the freedom freelancing might afford them.

As the Nonprofit sector’s workplace style changes, those looking to freelance in the sector will feel it, too. Here are a few ways how:

#1: Greater demand for workers means more salary transparency

Across all sectors, but especially in nonprofits, we’re seeing a greater interest and focus on worker retention and preventing burnout. The nonprofit sector has a bad reputation for offering unreasonably low pay for often heartwrenching and exhausting roles, so to attract enough workers to fill their teams, many leaders in the sector are fighting for living wages and more competitive pay and benefits. Additionally, would-be employees are keeping them accountable by demanding transparency by including salary ranges on job descriptions.

What This means For Freelancers:

The high need for workers means more opportunities for freelancers in the nonprofit space, but freelancers will have to have a clear understanding of the fair market value of their services and the skills to back it up in order to protect themselves in a sector notorious for underpaying.

If freelancers can pull that off, they’ll provide an indirect benefit to salaried nonprofit workers, too. The freelance world excels at stating transparent hourly or project rates up front, which means when freelancers requesting a fair market value for their work cross over to freelancing in the nonprofit sector, they’re helping workers in the general nonprofit workforce better see and understand the monetary value of their work. Over the long-term, this could contribute to a victory for higher wages for workers in the nonprofit world.

Finally, since we know that decisions made about how organizations treat their workforce can also impact the public’s perception of them, I wonder: Could more transparent pay improve the public understanding of the true cost of running a nonprofit, too? A girl can dream.

#2: Nonprofits are hiring from within

It’s a new world. Previous trends for Millennial workers suggested they preferred to “job hop” rather than stay in one position for too long. But Forbes predicts companies will start focusing on retaining employees and building up their skills so they can advance folks from within instead of hire from an external pool of candidates. For the Nonprofit sector specifically, that suggests nonprofits will not only seek to advance current employees from within, but also seek new talent from their other pool of potential job candidates: Volunteers.

What this means for Freelancers:

If nonprofits are hiring from within their own existing network, it may be harder for freelancers to break into the often-mysterious nonprofit space if they aren’t already connected in a network. This means that freelancers hoping to land nonprofit gigs might want to make themselves more attractive to nonprofits with a few strategies:

First, get to know the nonprofit landscape. Read up generally on how nonprofits operate — especially how financial decisions are made in nonprofit organizations. Depending on the organization, one person may be the decision-maker about whether to hire you, or it may be an entire group of board members with varying opinions about you, or something else entirely.

Secondly, get your feet wet. Explore nonprofits you’re interested in by taking on a few volunteer projects with those organizations first. This not only helps you understand their missions and inner-workings, it introduces you and your skills to the leaders at that organization.

Third and finally, make sure your reputation is polished and your portfolio accessible. As a nonprofit Executive Director, when I consider hiring a consultant or freelancer, I look for examples of their past work and information on what other nonprofits they’ve worked with. I might also check out their social media profiles to see how they engage with others and what topics interest them to discern whether they might be passionate about working with my cause. Seeing a polished online presence and positive testimonials can go a long way toward getting your foot in the door for projects at a particular organization.

#3: Retired Baby Boomers will become freelancing contenders

These days, Baby Boomers are not only living longer, they’re also rejoining the workforce even after retirement. Pair that with Boomers — like Millennials — seeking meaningful experiences and work and you get a population of retirees intrigued at the prospect of working in the nonprofit sector.

What this means for Freelancers:

Freelancing is, if you think about it, an ideal option for retirees who are already accustomed to newly flexible lifestyles. Baby Boomers with ample nonprofit experience seeking freelancing gigs will make for fierce competition. What Millennial freelancers may bring to the table in technological and social media savvy, Boomers will match with extensive fundraising, management skills.

Don’t fret, though, Millennials; Boomers entering the nonprofit freelance landscape could also advance the freelancing-for-good field as a whole, swaying more risk-averse nonprofits to give freelancers a shot with their credibility and life-time of experience.

#4: An eye on diversity opens up opportunities

Sectors across the board are paying more attention to the value of diversity in their workforce and the Nonprofit world, charged with making a positive impact for all, is no different. Though the sector still has a long way to go in ensuring its leadership and employee base is diverse and representative of communities being served, freelancing may be able to play an interesting role in improving its performance here.

What this means for Freelancers:

The increasing attention for diversity and inclusion may provide an opportunity for freelancers from underrepresented groups (people of color, LGBQT community members, etc.) to open up opportunities for these groups in the overall nonprofit sector. Here’s how: Since nonprofits are likely to hire from within, working with a freelancer of color or from other underrepresented groups means those nonprofits are also more likely to hire those those individuals for extended gigs or full-time staff positions as well.

There may also be another opportunity for a new type of nonprofit freelancing gig to emerge alongside the greater focus on diversity: If a nonprofit is trying to take a first step to become more equitable and diverse, freelancers might be ideal consultants to offer trainings on diversity, board and human resources, and more to contribute to the emerging discussion.

#5: A craving for human interaction will unite Freelancers

Across all sectors, telecommuting and working remotely is in the spotlight, but in this strange age of increasing disconnectivity and isolation, more and more people are seeking human and social interaction back in the office — or at least, in the proximity of other human beings. Having friends at work can improve morale and retention, and the newest generation of workers are showing they prefer social interactions to telecommuting.

What this means for Freelancers:

Freelancing by nature is often a solo operation. Though you’re performing for an organization, you might never get the sense that you’re truly “part of the team”. The result? We might see freelancers seeking out support and a sense of community with one another. Wethos has created a new way for freelancers to find and link up with other individuals with skills complimentary to theirs. Coworking spaces are popping up nationwide as an excellent solution to the need to balance flexible schedules with social connection. Additionally, freelancers are banding together to find guidance and protection for themselves through groups like the Freelancer’s Union as they navigate the nebulous world of working for yourself.

Organizations are outsourcing to teams of freelance experts from all over the country, utilizing their wide and diverse experiences and passion. Want to learn more?

Collaborate with a Team Strategist

Topics: Insider, Freelance, Freelancing