Where Altruism Meets Employment
Working for a nonprofit organization
by Phaedra Brotherton
After the tragic events of September 11th, many people began searching for ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Some started volunteering and others even began looking for full-time jobs that would give their life more meaning.
If you're interested in working for an organization devoted to making a difference, you should check out career opportunities in the nonprofit sector. You might already be familiar with some of the larger organizations, such as the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society, however, the nonprofit world is very large and complex, and the number of organizations continues to grow.
According to the Independent Sector, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of more than 700 national nonprofit organizations that promote philanthropic organizations, some 1.2 million organizations make up the sector. Between 1987 and 1997, the number of nonprofits increased by five percent each year; more than doubling the growth rate of the business sector, according to the 2002 Nonprofit Almanac, published by the Independent Sector. The total annual revenue of nonprofits also increased from $317 billion in 1987 to an estimated $665 billion in 1997, according to the Almanac.
"If recent trends are any indication, the [nonprofit] sector's role will continue to expand as the nation works its way out of a struggling economy," says Sara E. Melendez, the former president and CEO of the Independent Sector.
Nonprofits can be broken down into two groups that either focus on lobbying government on behalf of a cause, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), or providing services, such as theater groups or the Salvation Army. In his book, Careers in the Nonprofit Sector: Doing Well by Doing Good, Terry McAdams outlines these categories of nonprofits:
Private nonprofit educational organizations, including elementary and high schools, private universities and colleges
Arts, cultural, historical and community-educational organizations
Health services organizations, covering nonprofit hospitals and other health care facilities
Human and social services organizations
Scientific research organizations
Business, professional, farming and labor organizations
Mutual benefit organizations
Community development organizations
Legislative, legal, political and advocacy organizations
Calling All Tech Experts
Nonprofit organizations, like other businesses, are having their share of challenges in our slumping economy, and these issues are exacerbated by the fact that nonprofits rely heavily on the government and outside contributions for funding to carry out their missions. However, the need for computer and technology skills in the nonprofit sector is currently growing.
According to career experts, since nonprofits range in size and sophistication, the most opportunities for computer professionals will be found with the largest nonprofit organizations. Yet, more and more nonprofits are beginning to understand the need to become more tech-savvy and are starting to outsource their technology needs. "Technology is becoming a more significant part of all nonprofits," states Matthew Sinclair, senior writer for The NonProfit Times, an independent trade newspaper for the industry.
Technology specialists looking for work in the field should keep in mind that according to Virginia Strull, co-founder of the New York City recruitment firm, Professionals for Nonprofits, Inc., "Computer professionals who are familiar with many of the fundraising software programs and financial management programs remain competitive in this market."
Opportunities for technology professionals vary, depending on the size and sophistication of the nonprofit, Sinclair says. Nonprofits that are trying to take advantage of the Internet, welcome employees with skills in this area. Some nonprofits may take advantage of staff members who have a strong interest in technology by asking them to put up the organization's Web site. Other nonprofits, however, will outsource Web design and management to technology consultants. But either way, there is definitely a growing awareness of the power of the Web in getting the message out, Sinclair explains.
Depending on the type of nonprofit, different skills are emphasized, but for the most part, nonprofits use technology to communicate with members or donors and to support administration of the organization. "There is an increased emphasis on communicating the organization's mission through the Web," he says. For instance, a relief agency might feature photos of conditions or of recipients of their services; many nonprofits are using the Web to augment their direct mail efforts, he says. "As nonprofits have gotten more sophisticated with direct marketing efforts, the Internet has become a valuable tool for them," he says.
Answered By: Jason M - 2/6/2008