If you are like many of us, you did not set your sights on working for a nonprofit organization when thinking about a career. Many of us learned about nonprofits by volunteering for an organization dear to our hearts, while others became interested in using their skill sets to make a difference in the world. Today, however, there are many people with a strong desire to make a move from their for-profit careers to a position in a nonprofit organization. Like any change, it can be overwhelming.
All of us at Bacon Lee & Associates have previously worked as staff members for a variety of nonprofit organizations, and want to offer a few pointers to those interested in a career in the profession and how to find the nonprofit that’s the best fit for you.
1. Volunteer. Volunteering is the best way to see how a nonprofit organization runs and how it uses its resources. It gives you the inside scoop on the staff and constituent base. Volunteering also assists in gaining exposure to showcase your skills as well as valuable experience for your résumé. You can then decide if you are an events warrior, a direct mail guru or a relationship builder. Maybe you’ll discover that you are all three and should be a Development Director!
2. Invest in professional development. A prime example of this is your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). This organization provides education and networking opportunities each month for its members and others who are interested in the profession. AFP also lists job opportunities on its local website. You may also have a nonprofit resource center in your community that offers seminars and workshops. Take advantage of what you can find locally and, if there is little to be found, look for webinars and courses online.
3. Do your homework. Research nonprofits whose missions appeal to you and speak to where you think you’d like to utilize your time and talent. Look at their websites, investigate their yearly reports, and develop an understanding of how they achieve their mission. You can learn a lot by visiting www.guidestar.com and reviewing the 990 tax forms that nonprofits are required to submit.
4. Keep current with the nonprofit sector. Read articles online or in professional magazines about fundraising and nonprofits. The AFP national website is a valuable resource for newcomers to the profession. In Texas, www.txnp.org is another useful site for articles relating to the field. And there is the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Times, both great resources for learning more about the field.
5. Ask for help. Get to know individuals who could help you find the job best for you. Begin to network by having ‘informal’ interviews of professionals who have been in the nonprofit arena for a number of years and who can answer the questions and concerns you have. They are the best resource!
Lastly, don’t worry, this is a fun process! I find everyone in the nonprofit world to be helpful and willing to share information to make our world a better place. And, remember, that we will always need passionate and dedicated people in the nonprofit sector.