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What Is The Great Resignation

What is The Great Resignation?

Very few people who lived through the Spanish flu epidemic are living today. It was a worldwide epidemic of grand proportions, and no vaccines were available to squash it. Since most of the current generations only read about the Spanish flu in history books, they were unprepared for the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19, and employers weren’t at all prepared for what led to another phenomenon known as The Big Bang Quit of 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic impacted every industry’s workers as they left their jobs by the thousands. As COVID-19 relates to nonprofits, the need for sanitation and social distancing limited the ability of the staff and the volunteers to continue serving just when the need for nonprofit work was escalating.

On the surface, it seems ironic that so many workers would leave their longtime jobs just when companies were struggling to survive. To dig a little deeper, there were a lot of issues that led to the Great Resignation. We’re going to highlight those reasons and describe the future outlook for employment and volunteerism in the coming months and years.

What Is the Great Resignation?

Before the pandemic, the resignation rate for workers remained consistently low at about 2.3%. We can deduce from that percentage that most workers were happy at work. Everything changed once the coronavirus began spreading across the globe at lightning speed.

Businesses shut down or scrambled to set up a remote workforce to keep things going. Not having lived through a pandemic before, no one was sure how long the pandemic would last or how it would affect their daily lives. Two years later, we’re still trying to figure things out.

With schools and daycare centers closed, millions of parents were without the benefit of childcare. Teachers and daycare workers were without jobs and incomes. Restaurant workers weren’t sure if they could return to work from one day to the next. Things were even worse in the healthcare field, where workers faced caring for people while being completely exhausted.

The struggle to maintain an income and hold down the fort at home caused large numbers of workers to rethink their careers. Many workers changed career fields to keep their incomes flowing, gain flexibility, and reduce burnout. Some workers left their jobs because they didn’t feel the conditions adequately protected them from the virus. Other employees refused to comply with mask mandates.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans had quit their jobs, which accounts for 2.9% of the total workforce in the entire country. The previous few months also hit record highs. The mass exodus of the workforce has been dubbed The Great Resignation or The Big Quit of 2021.

Moreover, over 100,00 workers prepared to strike, particularly healthcare workers who were burned out and underpaid. This wave peaked in October 2021 and has become known as Striketober.

Nonprofits typically have paid staff and volunteers, so what does The Great Resignation mean for this sect?

What Impact Has The Great Resignation Had on Nonprofits?

The rate of turnover hit nonprofit organizations just as hard. John Hopkins University reports nonprofits employed 930,000 fewer people in February 2021 than in the previous year. One study showed that the demand for nonprofit services increased by 60% in 2020, while the ability to provide services decreased by 37%.

The costs of turnover are high, further depleting nonprofits’ resources. Costs of turnover include advertising, recruiting, interviewing, background checks and drug testing fees, and onboarding and training costs.

According to Employee Benefit News, it can cost 33% of a worker’s salary to replace one employee. To give it a clearer context, it could cost as much as $12,000 to replace an entry-level employee or $50,000 or more for an executive. 

On a positive note, with so many people eager to make a career switch, The Big Quit opens the door to a new crop of candidates for board member positions, staff positions, and volunteers who bring new sets of job skills to the table.

The millennial generation is currently the largest in the workforce. They are an excellent demographic for nonprofits to pursue, considering 90% of millennials are focused on doing work that positively impacts the world. Moreover, 36% of millennials indicated they would be looking to switch employers once the pandemic ends.

How to Reduce Turnover and Recruit Quality Talent

While opportunities exist to attract new talent to serve your nonprofit, this is also prime time to retain talent within your organization.

Take steps to improve retention. Ask your employees and volunteers what motivates them to stay and do more of that. Give them regular feedback and show appreciation to them.

Monitor your employee turnover rate. To accomplish this, calculate how many of your employees and volunteers quit within a year. Add the number of staff members and volunteers you had at the beginning of the year to the number of staff and employees you had at the end of the year and divide by two. Then divide the result by the number of employees and volunteers left in the same year and multiply the total number by 100. The final result will help you to calculate your turnover costs.

What can your nonprofit do to attract quality talent from those who left their jobs during The Big Quit of 2021? The following tips should point you in the right direction:

  • Arrange for employees and volunteers to work remotely
  • Tap the talent of freelancers
  • Offer workers as much flexibility as possible
  • Leverage technology to manage meetings, check-ins, and project management
  • Strive to build strong connections with workers
  • Develop opportunities for growth within your nonprofit

Final Thoughts About The Big Quit of 2021

At some point, the pandemic will be behind us. If nonprofits have learned anything from The Big Quit of 2021, it’s how resilient they can truly be when push comes to shove. Overall, the mass resignation has motivated workers to take a fresh look at what is important to them in life. Nonprofits can best respond by listening to what they are saying and providing mutual rewarding opportunities that serve the public good.  



Theresa Sintetos

Content Strategist and Operations Manager with six years of growth in the same company, moving up from social media specialist to executive strategy and director of operations. Skilled in research, writing and editing broad range of content.

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