Monday, August 31, 2009

So You Want to Work for a Nonprofit?

Recently, people have been asking me about how to get started working in the nonprofit sector. It could be someone who has been laid off and is checking out all possibilities or someone who is interested in opportunities in a field that they may find more satisfying than what they are currently employed at or - just about anything else you can think of. This is a common recession occurrence – when the economy is bad more people think of careers in the nonprofit sector.

Here’s the deal. Yes, it is true that when the economy is bad demand for nonprofit services go up. And in this economy it is skyrocketing. Whether it is a homeless shelter, a free/subsidized after school program, the public library, a museum or low cost arts program, demand has surged in this economy. However – and it is a big however – just like large and small businesses and individual households, nonprofit income is down. And so, almost all nonprofits are taking the same actions as the for-profit sector – hiring and salary freezes or cuts, layoffs, etc. The job market in the nonprofit sector isn’t very good, but there are openings that are being filled.

The National Council of Nonprofits has an excellent series of Special Reports on Economic Stimulus & Recovery. The reports do not reinvent the wheel but make liberal reference to studies that have already been completed and offer a summary of the impact on nonprofits, actions they are taking and advice – all of which is very good. I have blogged about many of these reports over the last year. You can find the catalog of the reports at:
National Council of Nonprofits

Advice If You Are Still Interested in Working in the Nonprofit Sector
The first thing you should do is some research on the sector. Read blogs – this one has lots of good background information (Also see my blogroll for other great blogs to visit), join nonprofit and philanthropy oriented LinkedIn groups and follow key nonprofit “types” on Twitter. Become fans of nonprofits on Facebook. And drumrolllll….the number #1 best way to learn about the nonprofit sector is to volunteer and get a insider’s view. Volunteer for hands-on program oriented work and to make good use of your professional skills. Nonprofits need and will appreciate both. Become a member of a nonprofit Board.

Where to Look for Actual Job Openings
My favorite place is at the Foundation Center but they make it impossible to find if you don’t know how to get there. “Jobs” is in the navigation of Philanthropy News Digest. Here’s the link.

You can also sign up to receive a weekly email list of the job postings and they are arranged geographically which is convenient for most people. This is a popular jobsite for nonprofits to post on because people in the sector know about it and use it, its free to post and you can post a full job description.

Young people are more inclined to be looking on, and Here’s my take on each: – It’s new and hip and highly promoted. It is popular with younger nonprofit professionals and even has great bloggers writing about working in the nonprofit sector. It is free to post a job on the site so I am recommending it to all my clients. – Very established but also attractive to the tech savvy younger crowd. Cost to post a job is only $50 and it is an effective job posting site for experienced nonprofit professionals. – Everybody knows about it and it gets a lot of traffic. Some nonprofits have told me they use it to post jobs and have been very satisfied with the results. Go figure – I thought craigslist was for advertising your garage sale.

Bridgestar - Leadership and Management Nonprofit jobs and Boards of Directors. If you are a senior management person seeking to have a second career in the nonprofit sector, I highly recommend this site. If you have a pertinent Master’s degree and experience working in a nonprofit this is a good site to check out also.

Nonprofit websites - Just like corporations most large nonprofits post their jobs right on their website and this is the best way to apply if they do. Smaller, tech savvy/oriented nonprofits also do this.

There’s lots more including Charity Channel, Opportunity Knocks and Council on Foundations, but I’ve tried to highlight the most popular sites.

Please add to the conversation and post your favorite places to find nonprofit jobs in the comments.


Gayle Thorsen said...

Hi Marion...I've been getting the same kinds of questions. Now that you've done this great post--I have a place to send them. I've noticed lots of unpaid internship opportunities available with nonprofits these days (because of the lean times, no doubt). Often they're on Craig's List. They probably offer a little more strategic entry path than traditional volunteering. To anyone who sticks with this path and feels the calling, you won't find a more rewarding career.

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