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The Outlook for Nonprofit Jobs

An explosion in the number of nonprofits has created the need for professionals in fundraising, marketing and at the executive level.

By University Alliance
The Outlook for Nonprofit Jobs

Is a career in the nonprofit sector for you? If you enjoy a sense of community, want your work to matter and like making the world a better place, then you might be a great fit for a nonprofit organization.

“This is a great time to really consider either expanding your career in the not-for-profit sector or joining the not-for-profit sector. Over the last 30 years, we've seen an explosion of not-for-profit organizations not only here in the United States, but worldwide. Today in the United States, there are over 1.8 million not-for-profit organizations. And they need really good people to help lead them,” said Mark C. Germano, instructor for Nonprofit Executive Programs at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

 Nonprofit Jobs and Titles

Each nonprofit organization is going to have its own job titles, but there are similarities among them. The general nonprofit job categories are:

        1. Fundraising and Development

Development staffers are responsible for raising funds that sustain the organization and help it fulfill its mission. Development professionals are in high demand because fundraising is vital to the success of every nonprofit organization. Certain jobs involve researching and writing grants, while others are focused on planning events.   

Entry-level positions in development might include Development Assistant, Junior Grant Writer and Event Coordinator. These positions provide a way to launch a nonprofit career. The next steps up the ladder include Development Manager and Grants Manager, which involve more responsibility, require top-notch writing skills along with excellent interpersonal and communication skills. The highest job level is typically Development Director or Chief Development Officer, where responsibilities include strategic planning and managing partnerships.

2. Marketing

The marketing department of a nonprofit is responsible for activities such as promoting the organization and its events, managing social media, creating and distributing advertising campaigns and representing the organization. 

Smaller nonprofits may have a one-person marketing department. Larger organizations can have large marketing departments where typical entry-level jobs are Marketing Assistant and Publication Specialist. Jobs with increasing responsibility include the Assistant Marketing Director, who is often in charge of one area such as promotions or social media, and the Marketing Director who oversees the entire department.

 Marketing is an area where nonprofit organizations need to bring more focus, according to Marc Hardy, Ph.D. and director of Nonprofit Executive Programs at the University of Notre Dame. 

“Most nonprofits don't understand that they really need to market. There is a constituency out there that they need to affect, which are in large part donors or potential donors. So, if a potential donor doesn't know about you, doesn't know what you do and what your success is, then that's a problem,” he said.

3. Executive

The Chief Executive Officer of a nonprofit is typically called the Executive Director (ED). The ED is responsible for managing all of the organization’s programs, staff and operations, including financials. The ED reports to the board of directors or trustees and acts as the liaison between the board and the rest of the organization. He or she also represents the organization in public and nurtures strategic partnerships with donors. The ED is also ultimately responsible for the organization’s fundraising activities.

 How to Move Up in a Nonprofit Organization

If you’re interested in working for a nonprofit and want to prepare yourself for a fulfilling career, here are some ways you can make a greater impact, get noticed and place yourself in a position for advancement: 

  • Act like a leader: If you want to be a leader, behave like one. Read everything you can on leadership. Develop your communication skills, step up for new challenges and projects and encourage everyone around you to be their best.
  • Be a risk-taker: No one would advise taking foolish risks, but if you want to be a leader, you should take calculated risks. They might range from taking an unpopular stand on an issue you care about to launching a new program that nobody else will take on. 
  • Continue your education: Nonprofits are businesses – and the business world changes fast. Keep up with trends through continuing education. Earn the certificates that will increase your knowledge and value to the organization. Continuing education can be especially valuable for someone entering the nonprofit sector from a for-profit background such as business or social and community service. 
  • Take responsibility: Taking responsibility is another sign of leadership. Find ways to get the job done and do it better. Seek opportunities to improve programs or delivery of services. Solve problems.


Nonprofit Jobs Can be Rewarding

 This could also be a good time to pursue jobs at nonprofit agencies as older professionals leave and create openings for new leaders, according to Dr. Hardy. 

“There’s going to be a lot of people retiring in the nonprofit sector,” he said. “They’ve been holding it off because of the economy and now they’re going to be retiring. So it’s going to make a lot of room for younger people to move into the sector, to move into leadership positions. That’s going to be a very positive thing.” 

The nonprofit world is a unique environment to nurture and share your skills and talents. If you decide on a nonprofit career, you’ll be helping others in your community or around the world, which can be a richly rewarding experience. Learn more about nonprofit jobs and start planning on how to land one.

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Category: Nonprofit Leadership