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Is a Nonprofit Job Right for You?

These organizations need fundraisers, program managers

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

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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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.

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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.

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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.

3. Marketing, communications and public relations manager

The nitty-gritty: Front and center — you're in charge for creating and delivering the persona of a nonprofit organization to the public. You could be doing anything from preparing press releases about the nonprofit's campaigns to courting the media to bring attention to the group's work via print, broadcast and social media streams. Depending on the organization, you might be in charge of producing videos or slide shows. And you should expect to have a role in coordinating the group's Web page content. You may need to send out persuasive blast emails, write copy or edit articles for newsletters.

When you put on your public relations hat, you're the spin doctor, stepping out to deliver speeches as well as setting up speaking engagements and preparing speeches for the executive director and board members.

Annual pay range: $62,852 to $111,874, according to PayScale.

Qualifications: A solid background in media relations or journalism, writing, editing and marketing are the core criteria. Special skill set: a genuine feel for the fundamental issues at the forefront of the group's mission, with a vision of how to sell it in a way that will encourage people to give and get involved. A deep network of media contacts will come in handy. A keen familiarity with social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other Internet platforms — is de rigueur.

The Public Relations Society of America and the American Marketing Association offer workshops and webinars on a variety of subjects you need to know, such as social media and branding; also, look for online and community college certification programs.

4. Education and community outreach

The nitty-gritty: If you like to get your hands dirty, this is a your chance to work at the grassroots level within communities to make a difference. You'll be on the front line offering educational programs, workshops and direct delivery of services to the community. You may be overseeing teams of volunteers who are serving meals, for example.

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Say good-bye to the standard workday: Your hours will be fluid, since this position involves working face-to-face with community members; that typically means meetings and workshops in the evenings and on weekends, when they're off the clock.

You will be charged with spreading the news via educational materials, pamphlets and brochures about coming programs and activities to get people eager and involved. You'll need to reach out to community members to give them the nuts and bolts on future programs and activities. You may also be closely involved with creating the educational materials as well.

Annual pay range: $35,658 to $70,729, according to, a compensation information site.

Qualifications: Organization and communication skills are prerequisites, plus a knack for meeting new people and building bonds to work together. On-the-job training is typically offered. You might consider attaining a certificate in social work or human services management from a community college to boost your hiring prospects.

5. Finance administration and operations

The nitty-gritty: Budget-conscious nonprofit boards are increasingly fixated on bottom-line results. Donors, too, often see themselves as investors in a cause and give more freely to those nonprofits that are businesslike in their approach and regularly meet their financial goals. That's why someone with a nose for numbers is invaluable to a nonprofit. And the best people for these jobs are often those who have done this kind of work in the private sector and have the mind-set to cut through the clutter and make tough financial decisions.

Depending on the size of the group, you can expect to juggle any number of duties, from making purchasing assessments to processing payroll checks, managing invoicing and tallying up accounts receivable and accounts paid. You'll also oversee dealings with banks, including checking and savings accounts and credit cards. Managing on a shoestring can make for some tense times, but this inside-the-belly work is vital to an organization's staying power.

Annual pay: The average salary for a finance manager at a nonprofit is $66,000, according to the online job aggregation company SimplyHired, but this can vary greatly by company, location, industry, experience and benefits.

Qualifications: If you have a background as a chief financial officer, controller or accountant, step on up. A degree in accounting or business is generally required. The most common certification is a certified public accountant. The demanding exam is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. CPAs are licensed to offer a variety of accounting services, including tax preparation. Other certifications include certified internal auditor and certified financial manager.

Expertise: financial statement analysis, investment evaluation and corporate governance, as well as accounting, auditing, regulatory requirements and industry practices. You will also want to be up to speed on financial and accounting computer software, such as Quickbooks and Fund E-Z.

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