Is a Nonprofit Career in Your Future?
I have been writing articles and blogs for many years. I love to promote having a nonprofit career and to share information with others. The by-product of writing is the variety of questions asked of me in a given month. These questions represent a wide range of topics. One general theme that is typically asked is: Do you need special training or education to be a nonprofit executive or fundraising professional? Many times, these questions come from either a young professional or someone in the for-profit arena that are thinking about moving into the nonprofit work world.
With respect to nonprofit management training and education requirements, Study.com notes that nonprofit organizations range from large national organizations to organizations started by individuals with a worthy cause. Requirements for nonprofit management are as varied as the organizations themselves, and educational options include certificate and graduate programs in nonprofit management, public administration, public health or communications.
Specific organizations may have their own requirements for management positions. In general, there are no education requirements for managing a nonprofit organization. An undergraduate degree is a good start and a major in communications or business may be most relevant. Projected job growth in nonprofits is at least 10 percent from 2014 to 2024.
If you are interested in fundraising as a profession, you need a college degree. According to Degree Query, the most popular programs of study in preparation for this career are business, communications, public relations, journalism or English. In addition to education, you will need past experience volunteering, interning or working for a charitable organization to make your resume appealing to prospective employers. Once you have experience under your belt, you might want to boost your qualifications by earning the Certified Fund Raising Executive credential.
Top Nonprofits asks the question if liberal arts degrees are the norm in the nonprofit sector because a variety of study skills are needed in the sector that utilize writing, analysis and research. The type of degree a nonprofit employee holds seems to depend on his or her generation—Baby Boomer or Millennial. The top three degrees for Baby Boomers are education, accounting and business, while Millennials’ top three degrees are information and science technology, computer science, and electronics. A career path in the nonprofit sector could provide a home to recent psychology and other liberal arts graduates, allowing them to make use of their studies in nontraditional ways.
Degree Query seems to suggest that when deciding what degree to pursue in the hope of working for a nonprofit, it is best to go the business or liberal arts route. What nonprofit organizations are looking for are smart, business-savvy people who are passionate about their cause and do not give up in the face of adversity. You should volunteer with a nonprofit organization. Not only does it build your resume, but it shows that you care about helping people and that you are willing to go the extra mile to reach out. You may also want to work for the organization in which you have volunteered for over time.
Wild Apricot promotes the concept that you might be looking to enter the nonprofit world from one of many different starting points.
Whatever your life path, you may have noticed there is a great deal of conflicting advice out there about working for a nonprofit or charity.
- Meridian Swift, volunteer manager expert, Volunteer Plain Talk: The pros and cons to working in the nonprofit world are as follows: cons—bureaucracy, lower pay, limited resources, wearing many hats and an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and pros—intrinsic benefits, wearing many hats, non-financial incentives.
- Sarai Johnson, CEO, Lean Nonprofit: You must find balance in your life.
- Caliopy Glaros, principal consultant, Philanthropy without Borders: Have self-awareness and courage!
- Emily Patterson, founder, Bee Measure: If you are passionate, don’t be afraid to take a supporting role at a nonprofit.
- Tracy Allen, nonprofit strategist, TVA Consulting: Fully understand what you are getting into before you jump into the nonprofit sector.
- Nipuna Ambanpola, executive director, IVolunteer International: Volunteer first to see what you like and don’t like before accepting a nonprofit position.
- Mazarine Treyz, CEO, Wild Woman Fundraising: Take on a board role to see if you are ready for a work role.
- Ben Bisbee, chief vision officer, Rhinocorn: To succeed, you must have passion, focus, vision and tenacity.
Is a nonprofit career in your cards? The point of the blog is to take the time to sample the sector before you jump in the sector. Many nonprofit practitioners will make a long career out of the profession. Others will test a role or two and decide it is not for them. You must have education, training and experience to thrive. You must also work for an organization for which you have a passion. Making a difference for others is critical to your job success. Ask the question to yourself: Is the nonprofit profession making a difference for me? That answer will determine your future career direction.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.