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Nonprofit Organization Job Tips

Jobs in the nonprofit sector offer many encore career opportunities for workers over 50.

Workers over 50 often eye the nonprofit sector as their next stomping grounds either for full-time or part-time jobs.

See also: Great jobs for retired teachers.

Being involved with an organization that gives back to society is remarkably rewarding. Getting paid for lending your expertise makes it even better.

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in this country employing more than 13 million people, according to Independent Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization dedicated to nonprofits. They include: charities, foundations, private schools and community colleges, churches, professional and trade associations. Additionally, many scientific institutions and hospitals fall under this category.

Despite the do-gooder aspect of the work, there can be some drawbacks — starting with lower pay scales. In the nonprofit world, you work hard and there are often not enough resources to get it all done as fast, or successfully as you would like. Simply put, you have to do more with less.

But there's a silver lining. A new Idealist.org survey of 3,000 U.S. nonprofits concluded that jobs in this sector are opening up after a few years of cuts in services, staff or both. Program or service staffs are top of the hiring lists. If you're a go-getter fundraiser and can whip up creative and diverse funding streams, they want you. Administrative, communications, accounting and finance personnel, and technology experts are also needed.

Here are some steps to take if you're interested:

  • Soul-search. What issues do you care about?
  • Skill search. What skills do you have to help move into the sector — computer, legal, sales, financial management? 
  • Research. The nonprofit world is broad. Understand what you can do for the specific field you're getting into by having an understanding of the organization's goals and expectations. Volunteering first can give you an insider's view and networking contacts that may lead to a job.
  • Add to your skill set. Consider taking a course to fill in any holes in your background.
  • Be realistic about your salary, vacation and benefits. Salaries tend to be 20 to 50 percent lower than the for-profit arena. 
  • Check out websites such as Commongood Careers, Idealist.org, Change.org, Bridgestar and Civic Ventures' site Encore.org to help you make the transition. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has a huge roster of nonprofit and philanthropy job boards and employment resources, too. These are excellent sources for people with broad skill sets to shift into the nonprofit world. They list everything from volunteer opportunities, which can lead to paying jobs to board opportunities and full-and part-time openings. LinkedIn also has a job search section dedicated to nonprofit positions and you can also search for nonprofit jobs on AARP.org.
  • Credentials help in the nonprofit world. A number of people complete a master's or certificate program in social work in their fifties. Course work includes nonprofit marketing, fundraising, campaigns, corporate philanthropy, ethics and law.

Kerry Hannon is the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.

You may also like: 5 Great Nonprofit Jobs

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