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Is a Nonprofit Job Right for You?

These organizations need fundraisers, program managers

When it comes to job fields that value 50-plus workers, the nonprofit arena is a bright light. The ability to hit the ground running is your calling card. Not having to shell out time and money for training is a real selling point for a nonprofit with pressing needs, tight deadlines and perhaps a small budget.

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Volunteers collecting food donations. Jobs in demand in nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit organizations are hiring and value older workers. — Corbis

And they're hiring.

Forty-four percent of nonprofit groups plan to hire more workers this year, up from only a third two years ago, according to a survey of more than 580 organizations by Nonprofit HR Solutions, a human resources consulting firm.

Health nonprofits, followed by environmental and animal-welfare groups, were most likely to report plans to hire, according to the report. From finance to fundraising to management and marketing, a broad sweep of skills is in demand.

But with all these jobs, the core requirement is a genuine passion for the nonprofit's mission. You can't fake that. "Your commitment for the organization's cause is what will set you apart from other candidates," said Laura Gassner Otting, president and CEO of Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, an executive search firm based in Boston.

Here are five top jobs where the nonprofits surveyed expect an increase in hiring. Depending on the size of the charity, these jobs may offer flexible hours and can be on a full- or part-time basis. Pay ranges vary based on factors such as the size of the nonprofit, your level of experience and the location of the job.

1. Fundraiser

The nitty-gritty: Show me the money. Fundraising is how a nonprofit stays afloat. The position requires a sociable personality to really work it. A nimble networker will smoothly create connections and camaraderie with potential and existing donors.

You'll need to be alert to the various ways of raising money, be it by seeking generous gifts from individuals and corporations or by using savvy estate-planning moves to lay the groundwork for a bequest in a will. You need patience to woo even small donors to your cause, but knowing that they will be there for the long haul and help spread the word is worth it. And although much of the work is done via personal meetings, you might step into the limelight as a host of a big fundraising event such as a formal charity ball or a 10K race.

Behind the scenes, your duties may include sending heartstring-tugging form letters appealing for donations, making telephone cold call appeals to potential donors and sending thank-you notes. This job may also require you to tap the art of grant writing to apply for special funding available from an institution or government agency.

Grant writing, however, may be a full-time job at some nonprofits. While a way with words and communication skills are paramount, good listening skills are crucial, too. A successful fundraiser builds relationships over time and innately knows when it's proper to press for a pledge.

Annual pay range: $51,630 to $180,480, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qualifications: A background in sales or public relations is a great entree. To hone your skills, you might consider taking workshop classes or enrolling in a certification program offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Foundation Center. The center offers affordable classes nationwide in classrooms and online that cover grant proposal writing and fundraising skills. Many colleges and universities also offer courses in fundraising.

2. Program manager

The nitty-gritty: As a nonprofit program manager, you may have broad duties that involve running the day-to-day goings-on for all the charity's initiatives, or your job may be narrowed down to an individual program. For example, a volunteer program manager is a growing position at many nonprofits. It entails recruiting volunteers, interviewing them to find out where their skills can be put to the best use, monitoring training, juggling schedules, supervising and more. You may even need to step in if a volunteer is a no-show. Grant writing to raise funds for your program may fall under your jurisdiction.

If you're not a stickler for details and organization, this one's not for you. And remember, you're the face of the program, so you've got to be at ease with making presentations both to the board and upper management and via public events.

Annual pay range: $31,065 to $67,059, according to PayScale, an online salary, benefits and compensation information company.

Qualifications: Generally speaking, you need to have a background in managing teams of people, meeting deadlines and delivering projects as promised and on time. An energetic dose of creativity is at the heart of the position. Your role is to inspire fresh ways of tackling projects, motivate your team and continually create initiatives that advance the charity's mission. Nonprofit experience is not a specific requirement, although a degree in social work or public administration might serve you well. A working knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software is nonnegotiable.

Next page: Marketing, communications and public relations manager. »

How to Find a Nonprofit Job: Sites to Explore

1.Encore.org is a go-to site for anyone interested in starting an encore career with social purpose. Click on Job Leads, then Job Listings and Encore Career Finder to search by field and locale. There are also links to other nonprofit job boards and a smorgasbord of videos and articles about nonprofit job hunting.

2. Idealist.org offers an extensive jobs board with more than 10,000 jobs currently posted. You can search by job function, such as fundraising, marketing and accounting. You can also drill down to sort for part-time or full-time positions or contract work, and even salary and education requirements.

3. The Bridgespan Group runs the online Nonprofit Jobs Center, which now has about 330 positions, including paid part-time and full-time jobs.

4. Commongood Careers is a headhunter for nonprofits looking to hire management-level types. Under the Find a Job tab, you can apply directly for openings with its clients.

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