Adaptive Spaces

2022 U.S. Nonprofit Office Benchmarking Survey

Nonprofits are reopening offices, embracing hybrid work

April 1, 2022 8 Minute Read


Executive Summary

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CBRE’s Nonprofit Practice surveyed more than 350 nonprofits across the U.S. to explore and benchmark how they have been managing their workplaces and employees throughout the pandemic. We found that:

  • Most nonprofits have either returned or plan to return to the office, with more than 90% expected back by the middle of 2022.
  • Nonprofits and their staffs have embraced hybrid work, with most employees desiring the option to work in the office, even if they don’t use it every day.
  • A third of nonprofits report that their culture weakened during the pandemic, an area of focus for these mission-driven organizations.
  • Approximately half of nonprofits expect their office footprint to remain the same in the next three years, while 39% anticipate a reduction.
  • Nonprofits are still developing their future workplace strategies, seeking benchmarking data and hybrid work insights to support their decision-making.


Nonprofits, like most office occupiers, have spent the past two years managing their workplaces with the principal aim of continuing their operations and keeping their staff as safe as possible amid the disruptions of COVID-19. Most embraced remote work for most, if not all, of their office-based personnel. This new way of working altered how employers and employees perceive and use the office, accelerating the age of hybrid work.

Now, over two years into the pandemic, nonprofit real estate decision-makers are navigating next steps, and how to communicate those to their workforce. How, when—or, for some, if—they will reopen their workplaces? Should they continue to allow virtual work on a full- or part-time basis? What effect is hybrid work having on their organization’s culture? Will changes need to be made to offices going forward?

To help guide our clients, CBRE surveyed more than 350 nonprofits of all sizes nationwide to benchmark how they are managing this multi-faceted challenge. We found that:

  • Over 90% of nonprofits surveyed require or are planning to require their employees to return to the office a minimum number of days per week. Only 8% opted for 100% virtual work going forward.
  • Employees have embraced hybrid work, with 80% desiring a mix of both at-home and in-office options.
  • Just 6% of organizations are requiring or planning to require full-time office attendance.
  • For the most part, cultures have remained the same or weakened during the pandemic.

In this report, we also examine nonprofits’ plans for the next three years, the areas where they’re looking for the most support, their vaccination policies and more.

CBRE’s Nonprofit Practice serves as a trusted, experienced advisor to organizations of all types and sizes, backed by the full depth and breadth of CBRE’s resources.

We hope this survey—focused exclusively on nonprofits’ occupancy plans and practices—assists in your planning and decision-making. We look forward to helping you realize the full potential of your workforce and workplace in advancing your organization’s mission in 2022 and beyond.

Manny Fitzgerald, Nonprofit Practice Lead

A note on omicron

This survey was conducted from October through December 2021, during which the omicron variant began to emerge in the U.S. Readers should consider the results in this context, as nonprofits, particularly those that responded earlier in the survey window, may have subsequently revised the timing of some of their workplace policies during the surge.

Returning to work

Most organizations have already returned or are planning to return to the office.

More than half, 57%, of nonprofits surveyed are already back in the office in some form, a sign that the office remains vital for many organizations. A further 34% plan to require office attendance by Q2 2022. By contrast, only 8% of organizations plan to eliminate their physical office entirely and work fully virtual.

Notably, small organizations seem to be pacesetters. Small nonprofits (25 or fewer employees) are leading the return to the office, with over half, 56%, already back when surveyed, compared with 40% for medium-sized organizations (26-100 employees) and 47% for large entities (more than 100 employees). Small nonprofits are also the most willing to go fully virtual, 11%, compared to 7% and 5%, respectively, for medium and large groups.

Figure 1: What date have you communicated to your employees as to when they will be required to return to work?

Image of bar graph

Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Employees want a hybrid work arrangement.

Most nonprofit employees, like other office workers, prefer hybrid work arrangements going forward. Eight in 10 nonprofits report that their employees want to work in the office at least some time each week, with only 16% reporting employee support for fully virtual work. These findings suggest that most workers want to maintain the option of going into the office, even if they don’t use it every day.

Figure 2: What is the general sentiment of most of your employees regarding returning to the office?

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Nonprofits are embracing hybrid work.

Given their employees’ desire to work virtually for some portion of the week—and the possibility that a future resurgence of COVID-19 could again disrupt office operations—most nonprofits have embraced the hybrid work model. Sixty-two percent of employers require some, but not full, in-office work, while a third, 32%, allow their employees to work at home as much as they prefer. Only 6% require or are planning to require fully in-office work. With more nonprofits set to reopen their offices, this is a trend to watch closely in the near term.

Figure 3: How are you, as an employer, modifying your organization's policy work-from-home policy to address your employee's sentiment as it relates to returning to work?

Image of bar graph

Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Most nonprofits require vaccinations.

Two-thirds of nonprofits report that they are requiring employees who return to the office to be fully vaccinated (Figure 4). For unvaccinated employees who wish to return to the office, one-third of organizations mandate regular testing (Figure 5).

With the trajectory of the virus improving and local regulations evolving, many organizations will likely update their protocols and policies, including their in-office attendance plans, in the coming weeks and months.

Figure 4: For employees returning to the office, are you requiring employees to be vaccinated?

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Figure 5: For those employees who are not vaccinated and want to work in the office, is your organization requiring mandatory regular testing?

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Nonprofit culture

A third of nonprofits report a weaker culture amid the pandemic.

Most nonprofits report that their culture either stayed the same (44%) or weakened (32%) during the pandemic, evidence of the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on all aspects of society. Only about a quarter of respondents report a stronger culture.

Figure 6: How has your company culture been impacted during the pandemic?

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

An opportunity exists to explore how company culture can impact employee sentiment on returning to the office.

To discover whether any relationship exists between culture and attitudes toward returning to the office, we segmented the employee sentiment data by how organizations report that the pandemic affected their company culture.

Among those organizations reporting a weaker culture, 16% of their people want to mostly or fully work in the office, and 75% want to work primarily at home. By contrast, nonprofits reporting a stronger culture report that 27% of their employees prefer to work most or all the time in the office, and 58% prefer to work primarily at home.

Nonprofits who report a weaker culture should seek to understand employee sentiment about returning to the office and take steps to ensure that their workplace enhances a strong culture.

Figure 7: Sentiment of employees returning to the office, segmented by company culture

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Future workplace planning

Half of nonprofits expect changes to their office footprint in the next three years.

Fifty-one percent of nonprofits report that they expect their office footprint to generally remain the same over the next three years. Notably, 39% anticipate that their footprint will shrink in the next three years, with 22% expecting a decrease of at least 30%. Of the roughly 10% of nonprofits that report they plan to expand their footprint, the majority (59%) are comprised of 25 or fewer employees.

CBRE anticipates that those nonprofits planning changes will begin to evaluate portfolio optimization strategies to accommodate their future workplace and workforce needs.

Figure 8: Which of the following best describes your expectations regarding your organization's office footprint over the next three years?

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

Nonprofit decision-makers are seeking benchmarking, hybrid workplace insights.

Among nonprofit real estate decision-makers, benchmark data from other organizations and future predictions around the hybrid work model were the two primary areas where they sought more support and education. These responses suggest that most organizations are in the planning stages of their future workplace strategies, as they report less interest in implementation steps like change management, cost reduction and addressing long-term leases.

Figure 9: In what areas do you feel you need more support or education?

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Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.
Note: Respondents could select multiple responses.


This survey received more than 350 responses from real estate decision-makers at nonprofits of all types and sizes across the U.S. Organizational size was determined based on how many employees worked in the office before the pandemic.

Figure 10: How many employees worked in your office pre-pandemic?

Image of bar graph

Source: CBRE Nonprofit Practice, Q4 2021.

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