Things to Look For Before You Take That Nonprofit Job

Print Share on LinkedIn More

August 17, 2011; Source: Boston Herald | Debi Brooks, the former CEO of Michael J. Fox’s Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, says that she had to learn what to look for when she made the transition from the business world to the nonprofit sector—and she says for her it was workplace culture.

The Boston Herald reports that Brooks formerly worked at Goldman Sachs in a high-paying position but made the transition to nonprofits at age 40 to balance her life. She advises younger people interested in doing nonprofit work to consider a range of organizations and then decide based on the office culture and work environment. “Don’t just look for mentors in a boss, but think about who your peers will be,” she told the Herald. “If you visit a nonprofit and you don’t see your potential peers hustling or feeling empowered, that’s an indication for how effective you will be. There are plenty of poorly run nonprofits that don’t go out of business.”

Brooks also suggests looking for an organization where staff make daily decisions on their own instead of taking orders from the board of directors. She also sees red flags in organizations that outwardly brag about how much money they raise. What advice would you give a young person considering a career at a nonprofit?

NPQ tends to agree with this advice and we think readers do as well if the readership on “Workplace Culture: Why it Matters so Much to Us.” Your thoughts?—Ruth McCambridge

  • Gina S.

    Great advice. Also investigate work hours. Because nonprofit work might be more aligned to your personal values, you might feel more compelled to dedicate more hours than for a previous job. I know many who made the transition thinking that they would have more personal time. In some nonprofit work, it may be the opposite, especially if you’re wearing multiple hats. Investigate available resources. If a staff member has responsibilities that don’t seem to belong together and was just added on because there was no one else who could do it, that could be a red flag. However, know that it’s a reality for many nonprofits. If you accept, expect long hours; but if the mission aligns with your values, they will be happy and satisfying long hours.

  • Brooks Kelley

    I say it is critical that if you are looking to work in the non-profit world that the mission alligns with your values and that you get satisfaction out of the mission. I have an MBA in Accounting and Finance holding a CMA(Certified Management Accountant). This would not traditionally be the type of person to go into a non-profit. I have worked as a Controller for both for-profit and non-profits but for 24 of my 27 years. I did a for-profit at the beginging and between two non-profit jobs.I have enjoyed it because I went into organizations that went with my values.

  • sfortier

    Well put Gina.

  • James

    Hi, It is always good to take up any job with your eyes fully open.After 12 years in a NPO,it has been a growing experience.It would be naive to expect that colleagues in NPOs to be different from the for profit corporates.They are human and some of them may not have the same passion or motivation of service.Scrutinise the lifestyle of the leaders.”for by their fruits you will know them”