MB Connection

Moving from the For-Profit to the Nonprofit Sector: Things to Consider

So, you want to make the move from the for-profit world to the nonprofit sector.  That is great!  We know how satisfying and rewarding it can be to work for a mission driven organization.  Whether you are mid-career and thinking about how you can give back to society or are drawn to working for a cause you believe in, many skills are easily transferable to the nonprofit sector.  Here are a few things to consider when seeking to make that transition.

What are the biggest differences between for-profit and nonprofit jobs?

  • Some people view jobs in the nonprofit world as “easier” and “more fun”.  We have found that, if anything, nonprofit jobs are more demanding as there is often less support and more organizational financial stress.
  • Nonprofits are mission driven while for-profits are revenue driven.
  • In general, nonprofits usually have more consensus driven decision making, rather than the top down decision making that exists in most businesses.
  • Process can often be almost as important as outcomes in the nonprofit sector while results drive the for-profit sector.

What kind of transferable experience will help you secure a nonprofit job? 

  • Careers in finance, operations, facilities, IT, and marketing and communications are very transferable.  Even though there may be some differences, those skillsets can lead to a smooth transition.
  • Individuals with successful experience in sales sometimes consider fundraising (development) positions in nonprofits.  That is a tougher transition to make as there are big differences in selling products or services versus attracting contributions for a mission focused organization.

So, how do you best position yourself to get a job in the nonprofit sector?  

  • Do a “test drive” by volunteering for a nonprofit organization.  See what it is like to work there.  Offer to serve on a Board committee where you have expertise.  Volunteers usually have an easier time transitioning into a nonprofit job.
  • When applying for a position, make sure your cover letter emphasizes your interest in and passion for the mission of the organization.  This needs to be sincere.  Show a genuine interest in what the nonprofit does and be open to sharing your personal connection to the mission.
  • Be sure to include volunteer and board leadership experience on your resume.

Most people who make the transition into the nonprofit world find their jobs more meaningful and satisfying and take pride in doing something that benefits others.  Whatever the motivation, the nonprofit sector is a large part of the U.S. economy and needs talented individuals at all levels.  There are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and more than 25% of all people in the U.S. volunteer time with a nonprofit organization (National Center for Charitable Statistics).  Good luck!