by Mansi Gandhi

Is a career in the nonprofit sector for you?

If you enjoy a sense of community, want your work to matter and like making the world a better place, then you might be a great fit for a nonprofit organization.

At The Job Forum’s recent event for job hunters, we heard from terrific experts who are insiders in the nonprofit sector about their experience working within non profit organizations and they offered some tips for landing a job in a nonprofit.

Breaking into the nonprofit world is not that different from entering a for-profit organization. Certain skills are better regarded than others, knowing what you want is half the battle, and a strategic approach delivers the best results.

This amazing panel of experts who participated in The Job Forum event came from different nonprofits and philanthropic organizations :

  • Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  •  Z space Theater
  • Candid
  • Buckelew Programs Inc
  • Kramer, Blum and Associates, Inc.
  • JVS
  • A non profit consultancy

A summary of the discussion that took place at the event:

  • How are Nonprofit Organizations doing in terms of hiring?

This past year was challenging yet transformational for the nonprofit sector. 

The pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown has had significant effects on the services, operations, and the people working in the nonprofit sector. 

Our experts shared that while they may have experienced a slowdown in hiring (and it was quite challenging for nonprofits to overcome this situation); the good news is that the nonprofit sectors are recovering and are hiring slowly.

  • Nonprofit Jobs and Titles

Most nonprofits look to hire people with a broad range of transferable skills. 

-Soft skills, including long-term commitment to and passion for mission-driven work, self-motivation and a  self-starter attitude, working collaboratively, and being resourceful 

-Hard skills in writing and research and communications which are critical to grant writing, publicity and philanthropic work.

Just as in the for-profit world, there are  many  different positions depending on the sector you work in — and you might decide to switch between them once you’ve established yourself in your field.

Each nonprofit organization is going to have its own job titles, but there are similarities among them. The general nonprofit job categories are:

Management:

Management career opportunities in the nonprofit sector can adopt many shapes and nonprofits often draw from the corporate world for their most senior executive positions. 

Eg: Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Resource Development Manager.

Administrative/Accounting

In any organization, there need to be people expert in organizing and executing office duties, interacting with the clients, and attending to the everyday operation of the enterprise.

Eg: Human Resources, Information Technology (IT), Office manager, Administrative Assistant

Health and Human Services

Many nonprofits are concerned with the physical and mental welfare of their clients and need employees with a variety of skills in specialized areas like abuse, addiction, and life counseling for adults and youth.

Eg: Child Care Worker, Social Worker, Counselor

Programming

Program manager jobs include planning and coordinating one or more programs for a non-profit organization, including fundraising, budgeting, and community outreach. A program manager may be responsible for special events that publicize the organization and its programs to the community.

Eg: Program Director, Volunteer Manager, Project Coordinator

Communications and Marketing :

People with marketing and fundraising skills are sought after in the nonprofit sector to keep the organization and its goals sustainable and viewed positively in the public eye.  

Eg: Social Media Manager, Content Writer, Public Relations

Development:

Careers in nonprofit development provide plenty of opportunities for career advancement. Development is the area responsible for all aspects of fundraising (including relationship building, pursuing and obtaining funds from foundations, corporations, individuals, and government sources), as well as activities like grant-writing, annual appeals, events, and strategic campaigns.

Eg: Resource Development Manager, Fundraiser, Grant Writer, Annual Giving Manager

The difference for working at nonprofits often involves wearing a lot of hats instead of doing the same tasks day-after-day. Each of these job titles may include multiple roles, and allow you to contribute to a wider variety of organizational tasks than you might see in the for-profit sector.

Because of that, nonprofit organizations look for someone who is passionate about the organization’s mission, rather than seeking a candidate with a certain skill set. If one has knowledge of the challenges at hand, that person can bring smart ideas to the table. It also decreases the likelihood of getting discouraged or burnt out down the road.

While interviewing for a nonprofit organization, the interviewer may want to know and may ask why you are looking to work at that particular organization and what you expect in return.

If your experience and background align with their cause and they understand your passion for the mission of the organization, they will definitely be more likely to consider you for the role.

Experts at The Job Forum also suggested that a unique advantage of looking for working in the nonprofit sector is the ability to test the waters before working in it, by volunteering.

Nothing prepares you for work in a non-profit like volunteering. Giving your time to different charitable organizations gives you a chance to see where your passions lie and where your skills are best utilized. In this case, volunteering experience really matters on your resume when looking for a job. Plus it gives you a foot in the door should a permanent paid position become available.

After volunteering, if you decide you don’t want to work at that particular nonprofit, you’ll have relevant experience to add to your resume for the next one.

Some of the best places to find nonprofit job opportunities are:

  • Online searches: For non -profit opportunities use popular job search websites like:
  • Indeed.org ( non-profits) 
  • Candid.org ( a merger of Foundation Center and Guidestar.org) 
  • Ncg.org ( Northern California Grantmakers) 
  • Cof.org ( Council on Foundations) 
  • Calnonprofits.org 
  • Councilofnonprofits.org (a National Council) 
  • Philanthropy.com

Some of the best ways to find out about opportunities in non-profit sector are:

  • Personal connections: Ask friends and family about upcoming opportunities. Finding a mentor in the nonprofit sector can  help you figure out the direction you want to go in.
  • Reach out yourself: If you already know a specific nonprofit where you think you may want to work, there’s no harm in reaching out with your resume so that you’re on their radar.
  • Online networks: If you don’t know anyone in your area, there are a lot of nonprofit Facebook and LinkedIn groups you can join to get advice and learn a little more about the industry before diving in headfirst.
  • Informational Interviews: Are excellent for understanding what the non profit day to day work is actually like

Nonprofits require creative thinking in order to achieve their missions. Being able to think outside the box and problem-solve is important, so highlight these attributes when possible throughout your application

While it’s helpful to have a long-term strategy for your nonprofit career, it’s equally important to remain flexible and be willing to stretch outside your comfort zone to take advantage of the opportunities that may arise.

The more you show you are part of the sector and have the exact skills they are seeking for the nonprofit jobs you are applying for, the more interviews you will land.

The Job Forum is also a Nonprofit run by volunteers who offer job hunters insights and advice from experts in various industries. Our volunteer experts are insiders in Bay Area companies who advise job seekers with practical ideas for how to be more successful in finding a job or career within these industries.

Virtual events, Meetings and Q&A sessions are organized to assist job hunters with customized assistance and ideas every Wednesday and Thursday evening  6–8 PM- virtually.

Sign up on eventbrite to register and take advantage of these FREE sessions.

Please support The Job Forum with your donations 

https://thejobforum.org/donate so we can continue to help the many job hunters who need guidance, insider tips, and ideas, contacts and encouragement.