Why 2011 Is the Year to Get a Nonprofit Job

Today’s guest post comes from Ellen Berry.

If you’ve been considering working in the nonprofit sector but worried that you might not be able to find a job that would pay the bills, now’s the time to take a more serious look.

Here are 5 reasons why this year is a good year to start “lifting as you climb” in your career:

  1. More jobs – According to the Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey 2010 published by the human resources consulting firm Nonprofit HR Solutions, hiring trends are on the upswing. Approximately 43% of the 500 surveyed organizations expected to create new full-time positions in response to a rise in demand for their services. Most of these were larger employers.
  2. More in need – The recession has created a huge increase in demand on nonprofits as they seek to serve a population of people who hadn’t needed assistance before, in addition to those they have typically served in the past. This need is not expected to wane, since aging baby boomers are likely to seek assistance in coming years. Additional aid is being granted to these organizations to help them meet the demand, and that means they are able to hire where they couldn’t in 2009 or 2010.
  3. More stability – This year looks like it will offer the most stable employment in the nonprofit sector of the last three years. In the report above, over half of respondents in the report mentioned above had to eliminate positions in 2009, but only 10% said they did in 2010. In some fields of service (for example, health care-related causes), nonprofit employment can be just as or even more stable than equivalents in for-profit fields.
  4. More capacity – As members of the baby boomer generation retire, many are choosing to enter into charity service. Although they are likely to serve as volunteers, they will increase the capacity of organizations to further their mission, opening doors for new paid jobs as well.These new volunteers are bringing with them new standards for areas such as business practices, marketing / fundraising, technology, finance and human resources, and therefore organizations are likely to see significant advancements in their ability to handle more employees, serve more patrons, and expand awareness of their causes.
  5. More in service – Frustrated job seekers who have not been able to find work in the for-profit sector are considering nonprofit jobs where before they hadn’t. In addition, there are some baby boomers who will want to keep working, but find more meaning in their work. Therefore, it is wise to consider switching to a nonprofit career now, since those jobs that are opening up are likely to have more competition than they had in the past, especially with larger employers.

Strategies for Finding a Paying Job that Makes a Difference

  • Accountability and reputation – Watchdog sites like Charity Navigator assess how organizations measure up when it comes to fiscal responsibility and other standards of quality – using them can help find potential employers who are in good financial standing. When charities regularly publish statistics about how many people they’re helping and how much money they’re raising, they are usually being held accountable by organizations and government agencies that have awarded them funding through grants; therefore, these programs may have money to spend on hiring employees.
  • Are they advertising jobs? – Some organizations hire regularly due to growth or turnover. Often, they will place recruiting advertisements in newspapers, magazines, and even on TV. They may also post positions online on local job boards, major career sites, and websites specific to nonprofit careers such as Indeed, Idealist, and Opportunity Knocks. Compare the title and wording of nonprofit job descriptions to standard for-profit job descriptions – if they are similar, this can indicate the organization is making an effort to pay a wage that is competitive.
  • Volunteering and mentorship – It’s rather unusual for someone to walk into a large corporation and offer to work for free for a few days, but in the nonprofit sector, this is generally welcome.To increase your chances of a positive experience, do some research on the organization first to make sure it’s a good match, and be open to what volunteer activities they offer that may be new territory for you. Call first to make an appointment with human resources, and come prepared with a request for a couple different kinds of work you would like to offer, the number of hours you would like to volunteer, and what your goals would be for your time volunteering. Include in your goals one specific one – to receive mentorship about working in nonprofits from different departments and / or organizational leaders.
  • Social entrepreneurship – The lines of philanthropic service are becoming blurred as some for-profit businesses are pursuing new standards of corporate responsibility. Social entrepreneurship combines for-profit business with a charitable bottom line. These employers are in some cases even more likely than nonprofits to offer a number of paid jobs while contributing to a cause. In addition to searching under social entrepreneurship, look for social benefit companies or B-Corporations.

Ellen Berry, a member of the BrainTrack writing team, contributes feature articles offering sage career advice.

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