Many organizations in the nonprofit sector are tasked with achieving big initiatives on a very limited budget. These groups rely on strong leaders to guide them to success under trying circumstances that might cause others to back down.
Veterans can be an ideal choice to manage nonprofit organizations, as their military leadership skills have prepared them to unite people, inspire them to do their best and successfully navigate difficult situations.
Each branch of the military provides a very different experience, but servicemembers walk away with at least one shared capability — leadership skills. The military teaches its personnel to take responsibility for their own actions, other people and the resources they’ve been given. Training includes inspiring others to reach their potential, working together, giving and receiving well-planned orders, and facing challenges head-on.
Nonprofit organizations are businesses that must often operate with very limited or defined resources, making teamwork essential to advance initiatives. Servicemembers are the ultimate team players; nearly every task in the military is completed with at least one other person, allowing members to develop excellent interpersonal and leadership abilities.
Military leaders are also frequently tasked with analyzing a situation, making the best decision for the team, giving orders, following a set plan and accepting responsibility for the outcome. This experience can seamlessly transition to the nonprofit sector, allowing them to successfully lead a team of employees working together for the success of the group.
Nonprofit organizations can really benefit from military leadership skills, as veterans already have a vast amount of experience increasing efficiency and optimizing processes. They know how to fully commit to everything they do and are dedicated to strengthening workforce engagement while leveraging human capital.
Veterans can become leaders in the nonprofit sector by dedicating themselves to a cause or organization, such as a charity they are very passionate about. But it’s more than that as some roles may require knowledge in a variety of areas, such as public affairs, nonprofit finance and technology.
It can take a while for even the most qualified candidates to find a nonprofit position, so it’s advisable for servicemembers to start preparing for the transition at least one to two years before their separation from the service. To find a rewarding position, it’s best to seek out professional development opportunities, such as networking, going on informational interviews and joining relevant professional organizations.
Pursuing additional credentials, such as a college degree or professional certification, can also be very important. While the military may build excellent leadership skills, it doesn’t necessarily train personnel to meet the needs and challenges specific to nonprofits. Higher education can fill this gap, teaching veterans subjects such as nonprofit advocacy, nonprofit law and nonprofit marketing.
Additionally, degree and certificate programs can be a great place to network with others in this field, which can lead to opportunities in the future.
The University of Notre Dame offers an Executive Certificate in Transformational Nonprofit Leadership that can be a great choice for servicemembers and veterans looking to enter the nonprofit world. It covers the skills and methods used by these organizations to meet the unique challenges they face. This type of program can help those with military experience gain the competitive advantage needed to attain a nonprofit leadership position.