Why is the Nonprofit Sector Getting Younger? Young, Driven, and Passionate NGO Employees Share

Why is the Nonprofit Sector Getting Younger? Young, Driven, and Passionate NGO Employees ShareAs a recent post-grad who has long been passionate about working in the nonprofit sector, specifically in regards to social justice, environmental awareness, and grassroots causes, I was surprised to hear how many of my peers were either interested in going right into nonprofit or transitioning from for-profit to NGO after a few years out of college. From my experience as a twenty-something, I have seen a significant shift in what has been expected and encouraged of young professionals and post-grads. This shift is not to say that the for-profit sector (banking, real estate, business, finance, etc.) will be negatively impacted by this adjustment in employment and change in professional endeavors and mindsets, but I think this gradual move and interest in a different sector should definitely be noted, especially when interviewing young professionals for nonprofit sector positions.

One of the central differences between the for-profit and nonprofit sector is in the driving force and overall objective of the body of employees. In the simplest of terms, typically for-profits’ primary goal is to make commission while nonprofits are concerned with assisting their community in some way and when they do deal with money, it’s often in regards to keeping the organization operating. So, why have young people’s interests peaked around the nonprofit sector? The economic incentive and concisely and routinely operational approach has been extremely appealing to recent post-grads for quite some time, but after asking a few young professionals why they have transitioned to the nonprofit sector and what makes them stay, we start to gain a better sense of what the nonprofit world provides, its positive attributes, and what makes it a fruitful and morally rewarding field to work in, especially for young professionals.

Heidi (25) is a current employee at a nonprofit in Boston that helps provide top health care to everyone in the Boston community regardless of income. “I held jobs at two for-profit companies after graduation and after the initial thrill of starting each position, the high eventually wore off and I looked around and asked myself why I even cared about what I was slaving away for.” Heidi comments on her transition from for-profit to nonprofit, “The answer was that I didn’t care, not at all. Personally, I need to have a connection and passion for the person/company/organization I’m devoting most of my waking hours to.” Heidi, like many young nonprofit professionals, are driven by the cause and service that the organization provides to its community. Human, animal, and environmental-centered nonprofit organizations are unyielding in their meaningful and honest examination of community, which is why they have not only caught the eye of many young professionals, but also the heart.

“Seeing how my work can impact my organization in even the tiniest of ways is the most rewarding part of my job. When you help people see the difference your organization makes in ways both big and small, it’s ridiculously rewarding. Everyone in our office shares a common goal that isn’t just making money for our CEO. We’re fighting to show everyone out there how we’re changing health care for the better and how our research is saving lives.” After working her two for-profit jobs and landing her first nonprofit job, Heidi has decided to make nonprofit work her career and continue to facilitate change in her community.

But Heidi’s story mirrors many new and young nonprofit professionals who have recently discovered the meaningful contribution they can make to their local and global community through the nonprofit sector.

Similarly to Heidi, Sarah is a young nonprofit professional who says that one of the reasons she was pulled towards the nonprofit sector is because she has the opportunity to “meet and work with passionate people and really get to see people with different backgrounds come together for a common cause.”

Sarah works for an education-focused nonprofit in Providence, Rhode Island and says, “I’m so glad I made this choice [to work in nonprofit] as I have been able to really sharpen not only my teaching but administrative skills as I’ve risen up the ranks at my organization and gone from part-time teaching to Director of Education, Curriculum, and Assessment.”

Like she mentioned, while working at her nonprofit Sarah was able to develop new skills and discover new interests in different departments of the organization, which is a significant motivator for young people to work in the nonprofit sector. For millennials who can’t wait to get their hands on any new endeavor, professional opportunity, and innovative technology, young people are eager to diversify their skillsets and professional experience. With recent post-grads having several internships under their belt, young people are well-equipped to dive into new departments, cross over between a few, take on several different professional opportunities at the same organization, and take risks to try something new. The opportunity to gain new skills and become a professional ‘jack-of-all-trades’ by your mid to late 20s, is an advantageous aspect of working in the nonprofit sector, an environment where the more you can do and contribute, the better.

From my personal and professional experience, as well as Heidi and Sarah’s, the earnest dedication and drive young people have to contribute their skills, knowledge, and tech-savvy suggestions brings a distinct energy to an organization and fuels the fight for equality, fairness, and justice. Working in the nonprofit sector to better communities, improve the quality of life for people, and work towards a more just and verdant society is starting to not only be at the forefront of young people’s minds, but at the forefront of their professional pursuits as well. According to a 2011 study by ad agency network TBWA/Worldwide and TakePart, 7 in 10 young adults consider themselves social activists.  This percentage is becoming clearer through the professional passions of young people to normally take a lower pay than a for-profit job, work or volunteer in several different professional areas and departments, and commit themselves to an organization not only professionally but emotionally as well. Have no doubt that this younger shift in employment in the nonprofit sector will instill a reenergized and spirited effort to spark community change. The introduction of younger professionals in the nonprofit sector will bring about a more diverse age range in the field and certainly give rise to a united front of activists and philanthropists, of all ages, standing side by side, to fight for a common cause.

5 Considerations When Leaving Corporate for Nonprofit

getting a nonprofit jobIt’s an increasingly common trend: After making their mark in the corporate world, senior-level executives want to give back by taking on a leadership role within a nonprofit. The good news is that 73 percent of nonprofits surveyed said they value for-profit experience in candidates, and 53 percent have significant for-profit management experience represented on their senior leadership teams.

But the transition from corporate to nonprofit comes with some particular challenges. Here are the five most common that executives mulling a transition should anticipate:

1) Understand that there may be many more stakeholders involved in a nonprofit – and the opinions of each matter.

The biggest adjustment for corporate professionals entering the nonprofit world is often the number of stakeholders involved in a nonprofit – each of whom has input to share. While corporate professionals’ primary focus is almost entirely on three groups (shareholders, customers and employees), nonprofit leaders must consider a significantly larger audience that could include funders, employees, elected officials, patients or clients, families of patients and clients, alumni, etc.  Successfully navigating the various relationships of the nonprofit world requires a careful understanding and concern for all parties involved.

2) Be prepared for a different culture at a nonprofit.

The culture of a non-profit generally has a far more collaborative leadership style than for-profit organizations.  Unlike the corporate world where decision-making typically rests with one individual or a small group of executives or directors, the nonprofit world encourages broad input in order to arrive at a group consensus.  Those entering the nonprofit workplace will probably have to involve two to three times as many colleagues in the decision-making process than they did at their former company.

Another unexpected but consistent cultural difference in nonprofits relates to how they interface with other members of the nonprofit community, including “competitors.”  For-profit companies often have varied and complex relationships with suppliers, competitors and other entities in their sector.  For-profit executives often expect nonprofits to be highly collaborative with each other.  The reality is that they are often fiercely independent and competitive – sometimes to their detriment.  So ideas related to cross-agency cooperation, outsourcing and other structures are usually a very tough sell.

3) Acknowledge the sometimes-strong stereotypes that nonprofit employees may have about the corporate world.

Many career nonprofit employees may hold stereotypes about people from the corporate world.  These perceptions may be simplistic and incorrect, but a new leader should be sensitive to them.  Among the most prevalent are:

  1. It’s all about the bottom line.
  2. You can cut your way to profitability.
  3. Profits come before people.
  4. Corporate people are used to having unlimited financial resources at their disposal.
  5. Corporate people have not had serious personal challenges, suffering or bad luck in their lives.

Rather than dismiss perceptions, a leader who is new to the nonprofit world should acknowledge and address preconceived notions about corporate professionals.

4) Self-disclosure and transparency can go a long way in confronting stereotypes and misconceptions about the corporate world.

New nonprofit leaders will want to go out of their way to rise above stereotypes or misperceptions about their corporate past. They will strive to be understood as individuals, rather than stereotypes.  Self-disclosure and honesty are imperative to building relationships with new coworkers and breaking down misconceptions about life in the corporate world.

5) Decide when it’s appropriate to take risks, and when it’s necessary to play it safe and slow down a bit.

Corporate leaders move quickly, whereas nonprofit executives are accustomed to avoiding risk and moving at a slower pace.  New nonprofit leaders transitioning from the corporate world may have to slow their pace and get permission before moving forward with a plan.

While the transition comes with its unique difficulties, making the move from a corporate role to one at a nonprofit is doable, rewarding and can offer a much-needed change of pace for executives.

The ABCs of a Purpose Driven Name

Tips nonprofitsMany not for profit organizations – from trade associations to 501c3 groups — use an acronym in place of the group’s full name in collateral, correspondence and conversation. Unless the group is the U.N., however, organizations may be doing themselves a disservice by relying too extensively on nomenclature that’s more alphabet soup than purpose-driven.

In a society that communicates by text messages and 140 character tweets, abbreviations are all the rage. When it comes to conveying what your organization stands for, brevity is not necessarily better. In addition to generating potential confusion, this form of short hand means your organization is missing an opportunity to communicate its purpose.

Here’s just one example. If you Google associations with the initials AAP the search will return pages and pages of listings — American Association of, American Academy of…just pick a profession that begins with the letter “p” — pediatrician, publisher, physician, paralegal, psychologist, psychiatrist…you get the idea.
As a marketing communications professional, I love that acronyms fit more easily into a tweet or a website address. Yet I know that it can take substantial time, effort and money for a charity, professional society or trade association to become readily recognizable to outsiders by its acronym. Not every organization has the resources or history of a group such as ASPCA or AAA.

This is not to suggest, however, that acronyms should never be used. When an organization, through its branding strategy, can create a direct and meaningful link between the acronym and the organization’s purpose, the results can be powerful. One such example is CARE. Founded in 1945 as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, the organization’s purpose was to send parcels of food to Europe after WWII. While its role has evolved into fighting global poverty and the letters C-A-R-E now stand for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, the name CARE still embodies the organization’s humanitarian mission and is recognized around the world.

As an organization considers its branding strategy, groups that want their names to be associated with a specific purpose may do themselves a disservice through over-utilization of their acronym. In turn, we may do other individuals and organizations a disservice by taking the shortcut when speaking or writing about them. One of Dale Carnegie’s Golden Rules is: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Convey your organization’s name with clarity and conviction so that others might do the same.

*Kellen Communications is a full service public relations, public affairs and digital agency specializing in work for not for profit organizations including charities, trade associations and professional societies. www.kellencommunications.com.

Interview with Mike Sand, a Nonprofit Consultant

Nonprofit AdvisorsSome of our regular readers might recognize Michael Sand’s name and have read some of his articles on our site but asked yourself, who is he and why is he an expert?

Michael, who goes by Mike, the founder of   Sand Associates, consults nonprofits throughout United States and has written three books on starting and running nonprofits. We sat down with him and asked him some key questions that can give you a better feel for who he is and how he became an expert in this field.

1) I noticed on your website you started Sand Associates in 1979, almost 35 years ago. With that being said, you must have seen different trends and regulations in the nonprofit sector.  How and why did you start working with nonprofits and how has your company evolved with time and trends?

Mike: I founded Sand Associates in 1979 because I saw a need for a consultant with special expertise in assisting nonprofit organizations. Of course, that was before e-mails and personal computers.  All nonprofits now should have written, comprehensive strategic plans which should guide the organization on a regular basis.

2) I have seen examples of nonprofits that had poor accounting records, filed their nonprofit status wrong or have done auctions or raffles that didn’t follow state guidelines which came to haunt them later on. What hidden struggles do you see nonprofits face and how can you help them keep within the legal guidelines of being a nonprofit and fund raising?

Mike: My first recommendation to all nonprofits is that they learn about and follow all federal and state laws and regulations.  Their planning must include obtaining legal and accounting advice.  In most states, nonprofits must file reports and follow state fundraising regulations.  IRS requirements and regulations are available on-line.

3) Do you have any examples you can share with our readers that show how your direct influences has benefited struggling nonprofits become successful nonprofits?

Mike:  I have worked with numerous nonprofit organizations to strengthen their boards of directors. Once every board member understands and follows their role to govern the organization, the nonprofit always improves.  I have also seen nonprofits improve by developing and implementing a strategic plan. The plan would include a detailed  fundraising strategy, a necessity in becoming a successful nonprofit.

4) If a nonprofit would like to work with you and your company how much would they have to budget?

Mike: I realize that funding is limited and therefore I am flexible in my fee structure.  One popular plan called Consulting Unlimited  provides unlimited consulting by e-mail or phone at a rate of $100 per month.


If your nonprofit would like to discuss working together, visit his website at www.sandassociates.com or send Mike an e-mail at MSand9999@aol.com.

FoodSource Offers Free Cost Analysis to Nonprofits

nonprofit food discountsFor the past 14 years, FoodSource Plus has successfully aided in the savings of nonprofit and human service sector organizations on their custom food and supplies. FoodSource Plus is able to provide a Free Savings Analysis that will show exactly how much you can save by comparing your current pricing to our discounted pricing. By sending in food invoices or receipts from your current distributor we will be able to tell you if you are being overcharged on your purchases. If you are already getting great prices we will simply let you know and suggest you continue your purchasing behavior.   The analysis might show a large savings and in this case we are able to provide less-expensive pricing for the same high quality products without compromising your custom food and supply needs. On average, our customers save 10-35% on all their food and supply items by using FoodSource Plus services. Our food and supply management consulting can not only save you money, but provide you with the savings that can be allocated to grow your organization.

FoodSource Plus is a completely free program and does not require contracts. Our mission is to provide organizations the savings they need in order to reach and help more communities.  If we find your organization savings, you are not locked in to any commitments; we are simply a tool for your savings search. With over 2000 customers and ever-growing customer base, we continue to improve our competitive pricing and research for your food and supply needs. With suppliers around the country, your food and supply items are delivered to you on an instantaneous basis, without the burden of long lead times. We also service your organization with continual audits to ensure that you are 100% satisfied with our service. Our service is structured, proven, and efficient; making it easy to save!

FoodSource Plus services also include NutriSource, a nutritional analysis program for your food items. By providing us your menu, NutriSource is able to analyze and report all nutritional information on meals. This not only helps keep track of nutrition for your company, but also provides accurate nutritional information to those your company serves. NutriSource provides security to those who promote healthy lifestyles, as well as provide analysis to those who have special dietary needs. We have Registered Dietitians on staff that can work with you and review any specific guidelines you are required to follow (CACFP, NSLP, etc.).

We believe that our team at FoodSource Plus and NutriSource are able to provide the best savings possible for your custom food and supply needs. With over 100+ combined years of experience, our services value the advancement for green-business practices, as well as Women, Minority, and Veteran-owned businesses. FoodSource Plus and NutriSource understand the importance of the structures, values, and missions of your organization. Let us help you grow and save by contacting us for a Free Cost Analysis. Happy Savings!

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