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Nonprofit Jobs: Flexibility and Opportunity - at a Cost

Nonprofit Jobs: Flexibility and Opportunity - at a Cost

Nonprofit jobs growth is taking off as nonprofit organizations grapple with an impending labor shortage. Late career changers and baby boomers could be the answer to the nonprofit job dilemma - because they can afford to take nonprofit jobs they love for lower pay.

By Kristina Cowan

Nonprofit jobs opportunities are growing by leaps and bounds, but nonprofit organizations are about to step into a sticky patch.

According to The Bridgespan Group, nonprofit organizations with revenues beyond $250,000 (excluding hospitals and higher education) will need to draw 640,000 new senior managers over the next decade, 2.4 times as many as are currently employed. By 2016, they'll need nearly 80,000 new senior managers per year, says Bridgespan, which focuses on improving nonprofit organizations.

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That might seem a simple feat for a large corporation with ample resources, but nonprofit jobs are - not surprisingly- harder to fill.

Fortunately, there is a talent pool they can tap to fill nonprofit jobs: late career changers and baby boomers - the approximately 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964. For years boomers have defined our workforce, and as they approach retirement age, they're showing an interest in more socially fulfilling work.

A 2005 survey by the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures says: "Fully half of all adults age 50 to 70 (50%) say they are interested in taking jobs now or in the future to help improve the quality of life in their communities. Leading-edge baby boomers [age 50 to 59] are especially interested, with six in 10 (58%) indicating they would consider taking jobs now or in the future that would serve their communities."

So it seems boomers are seeking the very community-service and nonprofit jobs that some of these organizations have to offer.

Nonprofit Jobs & Baby Boomers: Finding Each Other

The match between late career changers and nonprofit organizations has great potential, experts say, but a critical hurdle lies ahead: How do they find each other?

David Simms, managing partner of Bridgestar, an initiative of The Bridgespan Group, said no infrastructure exists to assist nonprofit organization in finding employees to help them grow and expand their talents.

"So the big challenge for us as a society is, how do you create a marketplace where nonprofit organizations that have wonderful opportunities connect with people who have wonderful skills?" Simms said. "We think it's a combination of visibility-some level of high-tech and high-touch to create these marketplaces to let the people find each other."

Simms said only about 10 percent of senior management nonprofit jobs are currently posted online; the remaining 90 percent are advertised almost exclusively by word-of-mouth.

The MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures have established a BreakThrough Award to recognize nonprofit organizations or public-sector agencies that seek to tap the experience of workers over age 50. The winners of the award are to be announced May 31 in Washington, D.C.

The Nonprofit Job Salary Search: It's Not All Roses

Late career changers and baby boomers who pursue nonprofit jobs will meet advantages and disadvantages, experts say.

A nonprofit salary search is key to understanding whether or not the do-good in you will win out over the worker bee. Before making the leap, employees should be prepared for a possible pay cut, they say. PayScale's Nonprofit Compensation Salary Survey is an efficient way to research average salaries in different types of nonprofit organizations.

Search Salaries for Nonprofit Jobs

"Your nonprofit salary might be as little as 40 percent of your for-profit equivalent, but it doesn't have to be," said Laura Gassner Otting in her book, "Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector: Shifting Your Focus from the Bottom Line to a Better World."

PayScale Nonprofit Compensation Salary Survey Data

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Nonprofit jobs culture may require some getting used to, as well, according to Ellen Freudenheim, M.P.H., author of "Looking Forward: An Optimist's Guide to Retirement."

"The corporate culture of nonprofits is very different than that of for-profits. In some cases there aren't as efficient back-office systems as you might find in a corporate company," Freudenheim said. "Usually the budgets are stretched."

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, principal of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass., agreed about the budgetary restrictions.

"I think the most challenging part will be for the employee to recognize that they will work with an extremely limited budget and resources," she said. "When you are in a big company, you have big bucks; when you are in a nonprofit, you are wearing all these different hats, and there are no assistants, no one to delegate to."

On an emotional level, according to Gassner Otting, stakes are higher at nonprofit jobs

"Compare being told that you can't introduce your products to a new country because they won't be profitable there and being told that you can't bring immunizations  to Africa because of a glitch in U.S. foreign policy. The stakes are simply higher when you are dealing with a cause close to your heart," said Gassner Otting, founder and president of the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group.

Along with such challenges come great rewards, experts say.

Freudenheim, a baby boomer who has worked in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, said nonprofit jobs offer the promise of working for something beyond a paycheck.

"What keeps you going at nonprofits is faith in the cause, commitment to the group of people who spend their days working on the issue. There is a kind of reinforcement of your values that happens in the face-to-face camaraderie in an office," she said. "You might be working for the paycheck, but you're also working for the cause."

Nonprofit jobs can offer a bounty of growth opportunities. Because of smaller budgets and staffs, according to Gassner Otting, employees often manage bigger, more complex projects earlier in their careers than they might at a for-profit.

Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for PayScale.com. She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues. Email Kristina Cowan.

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