Study: Nonprofit Workers Stay Because They Want to Make a Difference

A new study shows that nonprofit employees find value in their work—a commitment that carries on through retirement.

The mission of any nonprofit is to improve a community or advance a cause—and it’s this core value of making a difference that keeps three out of four employees and eight in 10 managers in the nonprofit world, according to a new study by TIAA, a financial services company specializing in the academic, research, medical, cultural, and government fields.

Here are some other highlights from the survey:

Meaningful work keeps people employed in nonprofit organizations longer than for-profit companies. As a result, 65 percent of employees and 74 percent of managers have worked in nonprofits for six or more years, with more than half staying at their present employer for six years or longer. This is about two years longer than the median tenure in all other industries (4.2 years), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers feel like they are making a difference. Nonprofit employees and managers define success by the help they give rather than compensation, and 91 percent of employees and 97 percent of managers believe they are making an impact through their work.

Millennial managers see more value in nonprofit work for themselves and their employees. When it comes to creating jobs that are interesting and satisfying, 73 percent of millennial nonprofit managers think nonprofit organizations offer more opportunity.

This commitment continues through retirement. Among nonprofit managers, 56 percent plan to volunteer for a cause they are passionate about after they leave the workforce. For managers who have worked in the nonprofit sector for 11 or more years, the number rises to 61 percent.

Workers think they are saving enough for retirement but aren’t sure what they’ll actually need. The majority (62 percent) have yet to calculate how much money they’ll need to retire comfortably. For millennial workers, that number jumps to 80 percent.

TIAA conducted the survey as part of its 100th-anniversary celebration. “Our survey validated how important making a difference in other people’s lives is to those who work at a nonprofit, and more importantly how it impacts their longevity in the field, career success, and plans for retirement,” Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA, said in a statement.

(PeopleImages/Getty Images)

Jeff Hsin

By Jeff Hsin


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