This article provides important information about a nonprofit career. You will learn about the different types of jobs in nonprofit organizations, where they work, job duties, how to become various types of nonprofit professionals, and more.
What We Do
A nonprofit organization is a business that has been given tax-exempt status by the IRS. All donations that are made to a nonprofit organization are tax deductible to the people or businesses who make them. However, nonprofit organizations must make their financial and operating information public so that donors know that their contributions are being used in an effective manner.
Nonprofit organizations hire workers to do most of the same jobs as for-profit companies do. They hire workers to do marketing, web design, finance, accounting, research, management, administration, communications and lobbying. But on top of that, nonprofit workers have other roles that are special to the nonprofit world: fundraising, grant writing, volunteer coordination and community organizing.
The major difference in a nonprofit career is that there is a different kind of bottom line. In a regular business, the end goal is to make a profit for the owners or shareholders. For a nonprofit, the main goal is to have a positive effect on the world and further the mission of the organization, whatever it might be. Staff members for a nonprofit are usually expected to have that perspective. This can mean working longer hours for lower pay, and pitching in as needed to advance the cause.
Where We Work
There are nonprofit organizations spread across the United States. According to the IRS, there are more than 900,000 tax-exempt charities and nonprofit organizations in the US.
Recent data shows that the District of Columbia and the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia have the most nonprofits per capita. Given there is such a high concentration of national offices in DC, as well as the fact that it is the center of the federal government, it is not a surprise that DC has the most nonprofit organizations. So, if you are looking for nonprofit work, you would be smart to consider Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs.
Another state with a huge number of nonprofit organizations per capita is Vermont, with a nonprofit for every 160 people. Other states with strong representation in nonprofit organizations are Montana, Delaware and Rhode Island.
As far as the biggest nonprofits that hire the most nonprofit workers, Forbes magazine reports these are the ones to work for:
- Salvation Army
- American Legion
- Communities in Schools
- Boy Scouts of America
- The Boys and Girls Club of America
- Habitat for Humanity
How to Become
There are many types of nonprofit jobs and careers. Just about every for-profit job out there has its counterpart in the nonprofit world. But how do you go about breaking into a nonprofit career? Many people think you need to have many years of training or have worked in the Peace Corps to show that you have what it takes to work in a nonprofit.
If you want to become a professional in a nonprofit organization, there are a few things that can make it easier:
- Volunteer: If you are interested in working for an organization that helps homeless children and you have no volunteer experience, consider volunteering for one of these organizations during your time off your regular job. Make sure you tell your volunteer coordinator that you want a job in that industry so that you can collect references.
- Get to know people: The nonprofit sector in a particular city is usually smaller than the business sector, and who you know will help you to break into a nonprofit job. Attend some nonprofit networking events and expand your network. Once they get to know you, it is possible for you to become aware of nonprofit jobs in your sphere.
- Help: Many nonprofit organizations do not have a large HR department. It could just be one person who handles hiring on a part time basis on top of his other duties. You can help to make it easier for the nonprofit to hire you by providing a clear, organized resume, cover letter and application. Show that you want to work specifically for this organization and for its mission. Also discuss the skills that you can bring to the table, such as how your event planning experience in your last job can help the organization with fundraising.
Employment and Salaries
Your salary in a nonprofit organization will vary a lot based upon the job. According to Payscale.com, these are some positions and salaries common in nonprofit organizations:
- Executive director: $61,900
- Executive director: $50,800
- Program manager: $50,000
- Program coordinator: $39,000
- HR manager: $64,000
- Grant officer: $49,600
- Development manager: $47,000
Some of the common career paths in the nonprofit sector are:
- Social and community service managers: Coordinate and supervise various social service programs and community organizations. They are responsible for managing workers who offer social services to the public. These managers can work for many different nonprofit and human service organizations. Some may focus on working with a certain demographic, including the homeless, children, veterans and older adults. Others may work with people with certain challenges, such as mental health problems or substance abuse.
- Health and community health workers: Health educators work in public service by helping people to learn about behaviors that boost health and wellness. They devise and implement strategies to enhance the health of communities and individuals. Community health workers offer a link between healthcare professionals and the community. They are responsible for implementing strategies to boost the health of communities and individuals.
- Social workers: Help people to solve and cope with problems in their daily lives. Clinical social workers are skilled in diagnosing and treating a variety of mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Social workers with a bachelor’s degree work with community organizations, groups and politicians to improve and develop programs, policies and social conditions.
- Administrative service managers: Plan, direct and coordinate various supportive services of a nonprofit organization. They most often maintain nonprofit facilities and oversee activities such as keeping records, mail distribution, and keeping up the office. Many nonprofit organizations are large and may employ several of these workers to provide oversight of critical departments.
To work in the nonprofit sector, it is common to have a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts, business or even social work. If you want to work in finance or accounting for a nonprofit, you will need to have a degree in finance or accounting. Experienced nonprofit professionals who want to work in management may earn their Master of Public Policy or Master of Public Administration.
Once you have earned your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may want to focus on a nonprofit specialization certificate program to further hone your skills. Here are three examples of certificate programs in nonprofit organizations offered by the University of Notre Dame;
- Transformational nonprofit leadership: Gain business knowledge that is needed to work in top leadership roles, such as the coveted executive director role.
- Nonprofit fund development: Covers the business skills that you need to lead a nonprofit, while also going into more detail about how to generate funds to drive the mission of the organization.
- General nonprofit management: Teaches you essential skills to thrive in nonprofits – budgeting, communications and resource allocation.
Training and Certifications
One of the most important credentials that you can earn to thrive in the nonprofit sector is the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) designation. Research shows that people with their CNP are seven times more likely to become a director or higher of a nonprofit organization, so this is a credential to strongly consider.
- Nonprofit Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/non-profitorganization.asp
- Thinking About a Nonprofit Job? Here’s What You Should Know. (2014). Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/03/26/thinking-about-a-nonprofit-job-heres-what-you-should-know
- The 10 Best Nonprofits to Work for in 2017. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2017/09/27/the-10-best-nonprofits-to-work-for-in-2017/#3833f8a100c1