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Advice on Starting a Career with a Nonprofit

What's Your Advice for Kayci on Finding a Job in the Nonprofit World

Reader Kayci left me a comment asking:

Do you have any suggestions for finding a job at a non profit. A lot of times it seems all they have are volunteer opportunities, but not many paying jobs.

Since we're often talking about ways to attract more people to the nonprofit sector and now we have a hot prospect here, give me your best thoughts on what works and what doesn't for finding work in nonprofits. I'll post a summary of your ideas along with my own thoughts next week. Drop me something in comments or you can email me with your thoughts. You guys always do an awesome job of sharing, so I know we can put together a killer job search strategy for Kayci!

Comments

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Follow your passion. Reach for the stars. Self market.

If you are seeking employment in the sector because you want a life less conventional, then make sure that the issue, solutions and organization are something that you care about deeply. Look for opportunities that will stretch you and inspire you not just pay the bills. In my markeplace (less than 3% unemployment) most NPOs are not advertising positions because of the lack of response from applicants. If there is a cause and an organization that floats your boat, then prepare your resume for them, march into their office, and let them know that you are ready to make a difference.

I volunteer as Director of Education of a non-profit, and we have learned over the years that it's best to only hire people who have already volunteered. Previously we had several people looking for "jobs" because they needed the work and they were hired but were the wrong fit. Now, our policy is that you first volunteer and then we can work together to see if there is funding for some particular role/project. The employee is more of an entrepreneur working with the non-profit to create some sustainable income.

This model seems to work, so I would suggest a similar approach for a person wanting to work with a non-profit. Pitch yourself as an entrepreneur who will volunteer with the organisation and then will look for sources of funding - external funders, government program, shared revenue stream, etc. You give your time & effort, and the NP gives its name & credibility. Both of you are committed to making it work.

Thanks so much for the feedback. I really like the idea of being a non-profit entrepeneur.

Thanks Michelle for putting my question out for all your readers to respond to.

Kayci

Hi Kayci--glad this is helping! I always find that my readers are some of the best sources of information out there! :-)

Inventory your experience and training and match that with nonprofits who can use your talents. For example, did you major or minor in science, history, or art? Museums might be interested in you. Got a degree in Political Science and a background of political work? Many larger nonprofits need lobbyists. Got a business, marketing, IT, or PR degree? Any nonprofit could use you.

Having said that, when I was hiring, volunteer experience was more important to me than the degree. Getting a degree showed me you could accomplish a goal. Narrow down your choices to the one nonprofit you think you'd like to work with. Volunteer with them. Establish a relationship with one or more of the staff. Show them you have the ability to get things done. Don't whine, ever.

Volunteering for a nonprofit also allows you a closer look. You may decide its not the right fit for you.


Hi,

I wanted to let you know about the Nonprofit December Giving Carnival. Deadline to submit your post is Dec. 20th.

Here is the link,
http://christopherscottblog.typepad.com/blog/2007/11/december-giving.html

Let me know if you have any questions.

Christopher S.
www.ChristopherScottblog.com

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