The Development Source

How to Make the Big Switch — Welcome to the Nonprofit World!

In these troubled times, you may be considering switching from the business to the nonprofit world.  Thousands of people make the switch successfully every year.  Are you ready?

According to Paul Lagasse in the current issue of Advancing Philanthropy (July/August 2011), business professionals are increasingly becoming mainstays on nonprofit boards and in nonprofit management.  As Lagasse points out, the best way to become a strong candidate for a nonprofit position is to demonstrate that you are committed to a cause and have the focus and direction to help a particular organization. 

Michael Alexander, the president and CEO of the United Way of Fresno County, California, has a checklist for assessing whether or not you are ready to move from the business to the nonprofit world, especially into leadership positions:

  • Do you have a passion for the cause or organization?
  • Can you work in a nonprofit culture?
  • Do you have good connections in the community?
  • Are you comfortable leaving the office and talking with people?
  • Do you have experience managing people?

If you are unsure about leaving the business world to enter the nonprofit sector, you might want to volunteer for a nonprofit as a board member.  This is a great way to learn how nonprofit organizations work and to see if you find the nonprofit world challenging and attractive. 

Many businesspeople have the knowledge, skills, and passion to help nonprofits reach their goals and fulfill their missions.  Are you one of them?

These books will help you answer Alexander’s questions:

Laura Gassner Otting, Change Your Career:  Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector (2007)

Shelly Cryer, The Nonprofit Career Guide:  How to Land a Job that Makes a Difference (2008)

Linda Lysakowski, Fundraising as a Career:  What Are You Crazy? (2010) 

Richard M. King, From Making a Profit to Making a Difference:  How to Launch your New Career in Nonprofits (2000)

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