Issues in Accounting for Nonprofits: Improving Employee Retention in Accounting Departments


accounting for nonprofitsThere are numerous issues impacting accounting for nonprofits, but none so pressing as employee retention. It has become harder over the years to keep great accountants. In fact, among firms employing more than 11 people, this has become the number 1 concern. When it costs up to 50% of an employee’s annual salary to replace someone, employee retention is a big issue in accounting for nonprofits.

People are your greatest asset. Nonprofits function best with a consistent infrastructure of committed employees. Finding CPAs and accountants and keeping them employed with your nonprofit organization has become challenging for a number of reasons.

Good Economy, High Turnover

It may seem odd that a robust economy results in high employee turnover. However, according to an article in the Journal of Accountancy, people feel safer in a strong economy. Because jobs are plentiful, they take greater risks by applying for new positions.

People who are comfortable, knowing they are in demand and that they have relative job security, may actually be more open to seeking new employment. If personnel feel that there isn’t much room for advancement, promotions, or greater earnings, they are more likely to leave.

Connect with Your Employees

One way to improve retention rates among employees in high demand, such as CPAs, is to increase their connectedness to the organization. That does not mean giving them smartphones and demanding they check in every day! It means making them feel wanted, valued, and respected.

People are happier at work when their needs are met. Abraham Maslow talked about self-actualization and it is true that people do seek self actualization when their basic needs are met. Employees who are compensated fairly for their work and not unduly taxed may still seek new opportunities if their emotional needs for connection and satisfaction aren’t met.

Such needs can be met by most organizations by forging connections with their employees. Work is no longer viewed as a paycheck but as a mission. Nonprofits are uniquely posed to add value to the workforce by underscoring how everyone’s job at the organization supports the mission.

By emphasizing how an individual’s contributions add to the organization’s work and support its mission, you can boost an emotional connection with your staff. This, in turn, makes them think twice about leaving and can help improve retention rates.

Avoid Faddish, Quick Fixes

It’s important to note, however, that fads exist in the personnel arena just as they do in other areas of life. Quick fixes aren’t the solution to the employee retention problem. You may hear about trends such as allowing more people to work from home, giving generous vacation time, or other activities as the solution to the employee retention issue. While none of these actions are bad per se, there’s never a one size fits all solution to the problem of employee turnover.

Think carefully about the reasons why people leave your organization. Schedule exit interviews and seek honest, true dialogue to undercover why someone is leaving. Address issues of culture and engagement, and make sure that your personnel feels valued and connected to the organization’s mission. This solution is neither a fad nor a quick fix, but it is effective over the long term.

Accounting for Nonprofits: RBP Methods

If high turnover has you scrambling to finish your annual report, complete monthly accounting tasks, or even prepare for an audit, we can help. RBP Methods helps right-brained people navigate a left-brained world. We offer nonprofit software and consulting services. We’d love to talk to you about your online fundraising or other needs. Contact us today or call 503-648-9051.

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