New California Labor Laws May Increase Staffing Challenges for Nonprofits

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Featured Nonprofits

Kyle was torn. He wanted to follow his dreams of working at a nonprofit so he could give back to his community. But at 23 years old and a newly minted UCSB grad, he knew he had to find a job that would pay enough to live in his hometown.

Attracting and retaining high-quality staff is a common challenge for nonprofits in Santa Barbara. The competitive job market, coupled with the allure of higher salaries in the private sector, makes it difficult for nonprofits to secure top-tier talent.

The high cost of living in our community poses an additional obstacle to recruiting and retaining qualified staff.

“I really wanted to work at United Boys & Girls Club because they played such an important role in my life when I was younger,” Kyle said. “But I can make more money working at McDonald’s.”

Kyle settled on a suitable compromise.

He found a job that paid enough for him to continue living in Santa Barbara and signed up to be a volunteer at his beloved Boys & Girls Club.

Salaries are usually lower at nonprofits than at businesses

“In order for us to recruit and retain top talent, we have to do our best to be competitive with salaries,” said Michael Baker, CEO of United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.  “It is hard enough to hire right now, but soon we won’t be able to compete with what fast food restaurants are paying and that will make it even tougher to recruit and retain talent.”

On April 1, the minimum wage for fast-food workers in California will increase to $20 an hour under Assembly Bill 1228.

Many nonprofits find that their most effective strategy is to create a compelling organizational culture, emphasizing the impact of their work on the community. Some offer professional development opportunities, flexible work arrangements and competitive benefits to help make their positions more attractive. Several collaborate with our local educational institutions to provide a pipeline for fresh talent.

Still, attracting and retaining high quality staff can be a constant challenge that can impact a nonprofit’s ability to fulfill their missions effectively.

High cost of housing in Santa Barbara and providing benefits present challenges for nonprofits

“Our biggest issues are providing a competitive salary, having enough office space for staff, and housing costs,” said Greg Gorga, executive director of Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. “When we look for staff, we are very reluctant to hire anyone who does not already live in the area, just because housing costs are prohibitive for most people.”

Another bill, SB 616, requires employers to provide more sick leave — at least 40 hours or five days of accrued sick leave by the 200th day of someone’s employment or each 12-month period.

“In order to retain employees, we have to offer the kind of benefits in the new law,” Baker said. “It does make it very challenging to cover all of our 10 sites when so many sick days are required, but of course we do it because it is the right thing to do.”

“We already provided sick leave, so other than changing the wording in our handbook, the new law won’t change us too much,” Gorga said. “We have a few staff working from home, but most are on a hybrid schedule, which is very attractive to our staff.”

Family Service Agency is proud of its commitment to offering competitive rates and a strong benefits package to our employees,” said Denise Cicourel, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer. “Our challenges are that potential hires who live in the area or who would consider moving here face the high cost of living in Santa Barbara County, low wages relative to the high costs, and the lack of adequate childcare in the county.”

Nonprofits depend on generous donors to fund their mission

Recruiting and retaining qualified staff has always been challenging for the 2,000 nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara County.

Because of limited budgets, the high cost of housing and the allure of higher private sector salaries, our local charities are often scrambling to find employees to join their team to create a more enjoyable community for everyone.

Nonprofits need donors to make generous contributions more than ever before.

So, as you contemplate ways you can enhance our community in 2024, consider increasing your financial and volunteer involvement in local nonprofits that appeal to your interests.