Nonprofits: Not Training Grounds for New Grads or Career Changers

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Back when I was involved in nonprofit management, people would sometimes ask me, “So you do all this as a volunteer?” I would smile at them and say, “No, I am a paid professional.” Occasionally, that response garnered me a few odd looks. I could almost hear what they were thinking:

“You don’t really need any special skill to do this.”

How little they understood the magnitude of changes that have happened in the nonprofit sector over the past few decades! A large number of the developments in the regulations of for-profit companies, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, have trickled down to the nonprofit world, making organizations more accountable for how they are governed and how they carry out their daily activities. In addition, both corporate and individual donors are holding the recipients of their philanthropic dollars much more accountable for how their donations are used.

Rosetta Thurman, a leader in the nonprofit sector, wrote a post previously that totally hit the nail on the head. It’s entitled “‘I Have a Degree, Hire Me’ Doesn’t Work Anymore.” Here’s an excerpt from it:

Some of the job applications we received pretty much said in a nutshell, “I just graduated from college and I need a job. May I please work at your nonprofit? Pretty please, with a cherry on top?” Um, how about no. It takes much more than that to land a great nonprofit job. Much more.

In today’s world, a job at a nonprofit is not pseudo-professional position. It takes a savvy person who understands the rapidly changing landscape of nonprofit regulations and expectations. It takes someone who understands the greater economic picture and the impact this will have on the many facets of programming — funding, society’s perception of its necessity, the available volunteer pool, etc. It takes an expert at building relationships.

Working for a nonprofit organization definitely has many rewards. Do you have what it takes to assume the challenges of a position with a nonprofit?

Image courtesy of Angie Garrett

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