To Stop the Great Resignation, Shift to
the Great Retention

Savvy nonprofits are focusing on staff retention to advance their missions.

Written by Anna Lipscomb

The “Great Resignation” was one of the most discussed topics of 2021; we even wrote a blog on the subject. The Great Resignation has been in the making for the past 10 years thanks to the introduction of a generational change in the workforce, employee burnout, and a candidate-driven market. Only to then be exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our last blog noted that “in April of 2021, more people quit their jobs than during any month in almost a century.” In the second half of 2021, the Great Resignation shook the workforce again when 20 million more people quit their jobs. After the COVID-19 pandemic, it is obvious that returning to business-as-usual is not a realistic option. 

How can nonprofit organizations stop the bleeding caused by staff turnover? The answer is a paradigm shift that encourages current staff to stay where they are. 

The Great Resignation’s Alarming Statistics

Nonprofit HR released the “2021 Nonprofit Talent Retention Practices Survey” with some very compelling data (2021). This survey, comprised of 500 nonprofit organizations, reports that 70 percent of organizations expect turnover rates to increase or stay the same in the upcoming year. The survey also reported that 80 percent of nonprofit organizations surveyed had no formal staff retention strategy. These statistics are alarming.

Currently, over a third of Gen-Z and millennials are looking for new jobs; organizations are experiencing an average turnover cost of 20 percent of the exiting employee’s salary to hire a new employee (DePerrior, 2021).

Retention is the New Recruiting

In the nonprofit sector, high turnover directly reduces the ability to provide services and realize missions. The Great Resignation is not a problem that will soon go away without action. That’s why we must shift our mindsets toward the Great Retention.

To eliminate costs associated with turnover, take stock of current actions. Think of retention as the new recruiting.

A recent Forbes article entitled “The Great Retention: Companies Are Benefiting from Historic Talent Transition, Now They Must Retain It,” states “look to your team leads, managers, and leadership to lead the charge to retain both existing and new talent that integrates into the organization” (Armano, 2022).

Staff segments by career level that respondent organizations reported most challenge with retaining (Nonprofit HR, 2021).

This infographic from the Nonprofit HR survey shows that organizations are having the most trouble retaining. The younger generations are entering the workforce into these lower-level positions and with no value placed on retention, the turnover rates are alarming but not surprisingly high. Demonstrating how crucial it is to have leadership on board with the shift to the Great Retention. 

So, to understand the Great Retention, we must first understand why employees are leaving. The Nonprofit HR survey stated the most popular reasons for resigning in 2021 were:

  • Lack of opportunity for career growth and upward mobility within an organization. 
  • Dissatisfaction with current organization and culture. 
  • A better overall opportunity with emphasis on compensation and benefits. 

Solutions for Retention

We have solutions to these problems. Organizations that implement these recommendations will embrace the ethos of the Great Retention and see staff satisfaction levels rise. As a result, nonprofits will retain top talent and be able to better serve their mission.   


  • Take the time to listen to your employees, hear their opinions, and determine how they feel they could be better supported.
  • Emphasize employee retention, which means creating an environment where people want to be!
  • Acknowledge faults within your organization and be open to change. 
  • Prepare for a generational shift. As Baby Boomers exit the workforce, younger generations have a new perspective on life, the workplace, and how they would like to be managed.
  • Adopt new policies. Consider a new work-from-home or hybrid work policy, allowing more schedule flexibility and offering a new incentive program.
  • Place trust in your employees to get their job done.
  • Look for ways to involve employees in your organization’s mission. Nonprofit professionals are drawn to the field because they want to serve. By continually reinforcing the connection between their job and the advancement of the mission, you will encourage them to see beyond just a paycheck.

For nonprofits to continue to make great strides in their communities, they must look inward and show appreciation for their staff. So many workers stepped forward during the pandemic to offer comfort, care, and support in a crisis. It’s critical to show appreciation for their heroic efforts.  If not, they will find an organization that will.

The nonprofit workforce is full of a new and dynamic group of individuals who want to see the workplace evolve alongside them as the previous generation retires. The shift from the Great Resignation to the Great Retention is exciting but will require an investment of time and money. Organizations that take time to focus on employee retention will emerge stronger and ready to fully realize their mission. 

About the Author

Anna Lipscomb, Marketing and Events Coordinator, author of "To Stop the Great Resignation, Shift to the Great Retention."

Anna Lipscomb is Marketing Events Coordinator for the Winkler Group, a national capital campaign and strategic planning firm headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina.  A graduate of Clemson University, Anna is passionate about community development, sustainability, and the arts. 


Armano, D. (2022, January 27). The great retention: Companies are benefiting from historic talent transition, now they must retain it. Forbes.

DePerrior, E. (2021, September 21). Report: Over a third of Gen-Z and millennial workers are looking for a new job. Paychex.

Nonprofit HR. (2021, September 23). 2021 nonprofit talent retention practices survey.

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