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The non-profit sector’s rapid expansion is drawing an increasing number of skilled and driven individuals, ranging from idealistic college graduates to experienced executives. However, as these individuals explore non-profit job listings, a common issue arises: they lack a clear understanding of their desired role, or the job’s actual responsibilities differ from their initial expectations. Particularly in smaller non-profits or local branches of larger organizations, employees are often expected to display versatility, taking on tasks beyond their usual scope, and demonstrating adaptability and initiative.
Once you grasp the sector’s intricacies, you’ll discover many rewarding careers within the non-profit sphere. It’s vital to narrow down your job search to a manageable extent and establish a vivid image of the kind of organization you wish to be part of. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be well-positioned to make informed choices about your initial non-profit job, paving the way for a committed career path.
Why You Should Consider a Nonprofit Career
- Purpose-Driven Work: Nonprofit careers often align with personal values, allowing you to contribute positively to causes you care about.
- Diverse Opportunities: The nonprofit sector spans a wide range of causes, offering an array of roles and career paths.
- Community Impact: Nonprofits often work directly with communities, providing opportunities to see the tangible impact of your efforts.
- Skill Development: Nonprofits, especially smaller ones, often require staff to wear multiple hats, offering broad skill development and learning opportunities.
- Leadership Potential: Due to the nature of nonprofits, there can be ample opportunities to take on leadership roles and make significant contributions.
- Global Reach: Many nonprofits operate on an international scale, offering exciting opportunities to work globally and experience different cultures.
Salaries in the nonprofit sector tend to be lower than in the private sector. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it is certainly something that you should take into consideration. Moving from the for-profit sector to nonprofit may also mean a pay cut. The chart below, from PayScale.com provides a comparison.
Read below for five types of positions in the non-profit arena and the skill set they typically require.
Public Policy Director
An MPA degree provides a strong foundation for critical policy-centric roles, where many non-profit professionals may lack the necessary expertise. Your understanding of business fundamentals, organizational structures, and policy-making mechanisms positions you as an ideal candidate for a policy leadership role within any organization.There are many attractive and rewarding careers in the nonprofit sector once you have the lay of the land. It's important to narrow your vision of your search to a manageable area and begin to form a clear idea of what organization you want to work for.Click To Tweet
Similar to corporations, sizable non-profit organizations require someone to oversee operations. This ranges from ensuring employee productivity and communication to monitoring the organization’s cash flow. Many expanding grassroots organizations, despite being staffed by exceptionally talented and committed individuals, often lack the necessary educational background and experience to excel in this aspect.
Many non-profits focus significantly on raising awareness of critical issues and challenging sensational or biased media portrayals of sensitive subjects. Alarmingly, public perception is often shaped by messages conveyed through mediums like advertising and skewed news outlets. Therefore, non-profits strive tirelessly to amplify their voices. In certain scenarios, this work is also intricately tied to fundraising activities.
Grant Writing and Fundraising
While a non-profit’s focus is never to make money as an end in itself, every organization requires consistent cash flow in order to sustain its operations and allow for the possibility of organizational growth. Finding ways to generate cash flow that are effective and consistent with the organization’s principles is often a full-time job – and in some cases, a job that requires a staff of its own.
Advocates are people who spend their day-to-day lives fighting directly for the needs of individual clients or communities. Advocacy can be part of a low-level job, or it can be the primary responsibility of a highly qualified professional. Social workers, lawyers, and all manner of other individuals engage in advocacy of various kinds. This demanding work is at the center of what many non-profits do, although it is not always as dramatic as it sounds.
From the Ground Up: Digital Fundraising for Nonprofits is a practical primer on the ways of understanding, building, designing and innovating an effective digital fundraising program.