Printer Friendly

Staking a career in non-profit organizations.

There's more to non-profit organizations than a bunch of volunteers on a mission. Non-profit organizations must organize themselves as would any other business that wants to have successful returns.

Children are starving in Somalia and Ethiopia. War-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina needs medical supplies to help the injured. Leaders in Eastern Europe and India search continuously for ways to develop sound government policies. And Americans fight to overcome poverty and homelessness.

Each step of the way, the needy find food, medicine, and peace of mind from non-profit organization workers whose mission is to heal the world. They are the selfless people who give of themselves in return for the satisfaction of knowing they've made a difference in someone's life.

It's a kind of motivation that comes from within; it can't be taught in any classroom, or cultivated in any workshop, officials with non-profit organizations say. It's the kind of motivation that non-profit organizations are continuously searching for, said Dr. John Coonrad of The Hunger Project.

"We look for someone who can make things happen," said Coonrad, who serves as program director for the Manhattan-based organization. "The one skill all non-profits search for is the ability of someone to take something and turn it into an accomplishment."

However, there's more to non-profit organizations than a bunch of volunteers on a mission. Non-profit organizations must organize themselves as would any other business that wants to have successful returns.

"I think many people are surprised at the fact that there is a strong similarity between not-for-profits and for-profit organizations," said Debra Gittens, vice-president of human resources for United Way. "We need everyone from accountants to researchers, from lobbyists to organizers."

For instance, United Way is a $3 billion organization that specializes in doling out money to communities in need of assistance. As a system, United Way requires all the management, technical, and leadership skills any for-profit business has, Gittens said.

"It's an arena that has the same opportunities as the for-profit businesses, but the difference is that there's a mission that makes you feel good about what you're doing."

"That leaves open a plethora of options for college students gearing themselves up for careers with non-profit organizations. Basically, any major goes, because they all can contribute to helping make a difference," Gittens said. Consider these options.

"Accounting is probably the last thing anyone associates with healing the world. But non-profits' accounting arm is one of the most important missions of any organization," Gittens said. "Afterall, someone has to keep track of the funds that will go to the needy. College graduates entering the field with accounting degrees could look forward to managing the money needed to keep the mission alive to help others. They watch how money is spent and track who benefits from the funding," Gittens said.

"That's important because without the money, non-profits cease to exist," she said.

"Computer majors can work toward a career in developing information systems for non-profit organizations," Gittens said. "Working hand-in-hand with the accounting departments, those managing the information systems can monitor the payroll, worker benefits, and any investments the organization may make," she said.

"Its the bloodline for the workers," she said.

College students majoring in government policy, public affairs, and law could easily rope a job with a not-for-profit as a lobbyist. This critical function is germane, as non-profit organizations seek to rally the nation's lawmakers for help in changing the policies that cause the world's problems. Not-for-profit policy-makers also help craft political standards for countries torn by civil strife that are looking for better ways to operate.

"There's a tremendous need for people with backgrounds in law and political science," Coonrad said. "A lot of it is political, whether it's food banks in New York or government policy in the international arena. Politics is what makes the world go 'round. So it does for non-profits."

Communications and marketing majors will find a special niche in non-profit organizations, as the groups seek out talented individuals who have a knack for convincing individuals, businesses, and charities to dig deep into their pockets.

"It's important that these people are able to communicate with donors--to show them that we need them to show up more than just during a certain time of the year," Grittens said.

Those directing marketing and communications for non-profit organizations also are responsible for showing the community how their money is used, "so that they'll know their money is in good hands and being put to good use," she said.

"Research also is a fundamental division of non-profit organizations. The research arm conducts public opinion polls which provide information on problems facing the community. Once they're identified, the researchers develop strategies on how to deal with the problems, or hopefully eliminate them," Gittens said.

"Basically, a researcher hears the message of the people and determines what issues are important in the country," she said.

But launching a career in a non-profit organization is not easy, according to Steve Johnson, of the not-for-profit group, AmeriCares. Besides getting the degree, knowledge of current events, geography, history, social issues, and even foreign languages is a must, said Johnson, president and chief operating officer of the Connecticut-based organization.

"You have to have a sense of what the challenge was and is," Johnson said. "You can't understand the need unless you work on a daily basis with the issues and the people affected by them."

"African Americans offer a special advantage to non-profit organizations because they can readily understand the problems that communities of color face on an everyday basis," Gittens said. "Unfortunately, not nearly enough people of color are involved in not-for-profits, which often have a large non-white client base," she said.

"The numbers are increasing, but there's always a need for more minorities," Gittens said. "A lot of African Americans and Latinos know what it's like to want. Because of that experience, they can see the trends. For instance an African American can more easily see how race relations affect the issues that non-profits address."

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 260,000 not-for-profit workers in 1989, the last time such information was available. Of that number, almost 66,100 were paid workers, the bureau said.

Only 8,152 of the paid workers were African-American, the survey said. About 5,690 were Latino, the survey said.

"By and large, it's still a problem getting them to join the ranks. Organizations will have to work harder to increase the numbers," Gittens said.

"A career in non-profits can be lucrative, with beginning salaries starting between $18,000 and $28,000, depending on what you do and the experience you bring when you start," Gittens said.

Johnson, Gittens, and Coonrad all say the best way to get a foothold on a career at a non-profit organization is to "volunteer, volunteer, volunteer."

"You have to understand that if you want to get added to the payroll of a not-for-profit, you have to volunteer so that the organization can get a close look at what you're capable of doing," Johnson said.

According to Coonrad, some organizations including The Hunger Project, whose organization helps craft public policy for countries trying to establish fair, workable governments, offer internships. The Hunger Project, with programs in Somalia and India, distributes an annual award to recipients who are instrumental in crafting the policy.

The Hunger Project, however, offers only a few internships a year, with a chance to become a paid worker for the organization.

"The United Way has no organized internship program" said Grittens. With its internship program scrapped because of budget cuts, the organization helps coordinate career development with its local chapters, which in turn craft positions for its top volunteers.

"Someone could start in a local office in Baltimore, then work his or her way up to a higher position at an office in Louisiana, then work toward an even higher position in one of the bigger spots, like New York," Gittens said.

It's important to identify which non-profit arena you would like to be in before you approach organizations, Johnson said. Seek out the organization, find out what it is all about, and work from there, he said. But he first offered this advice:

"If you can honestly say that you want to make a general difference helping people to have a better life, and you want to be tied more to performance than bonuses, then you'll need an understanding of people and a motivation and desire to work within it. That will certainly lead to a successful career in the non-profit world."

Here are the names, addresses, and contact numbers for several non-profit groups from which students looking for a career in non-profit agencies should seek information.

Americares 161 Cherry Street New Canaan, CT 06840 (203) 966-5195

Boy Scouts of America 3131 Turtle Creek Blvd. Suite 500 Dallas, TX 75219 (214) 520-3555

Easter Seals 70 East Lake Street Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 726-6200

The Hunger Project 1 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10010 (212) 532-4255

March of Dimes 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue White Plains, NY 10010 (914) 836-7100

United Way of America 701 North Fairfax Street Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 836-7100

Junior Achievement, Inc. 1 Education Way Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (719) 540-8000

Denene Millner is a newswoman with The Associated Press in Albany, NY.

Role Model Profile

Harolyn M. Jubar Environmental Field Educator Chesapeake Bay Foundation Annapolis, Maryland

An environmental field educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Harolyn Jubar exposes urban students to their own environment and teaches them about the issues facing the District of Columbia. She also encourages them to change their behavior by showing them ways to live in harmony with the environment.

Jubar began her career in the environmental field in 1986 as administrative staff for the Environmental Policy Institute. There, she learned the importance of every human being taking a responsible role in protecting and preserving our planet.

After reading a study showing that people of color inhabit four out of every five communities located near toxic and municipal waste sites, nuclear facilities, and power plants, Jubar expressed interest in working on getting environmental justice for these communities and was subsequently promoted to coordinator of the Environmental Justice Project. She also networked with local community leaders and helped to organize the District of Columbia Interracial Coalition on Environmental Equity (DICEE).
COPYRIGHT 1993 IMDiversity, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Career Reports/Liberal Arts.; Annual Jobs Issue; includes role model profile and directory of organizations
Author:Millner, Denene
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:1717
Previous Article:Opportunities in the military.
Next Article:Teaching as a career.
Topics:


Related Articles
Is there hope for liberal arts majors?
Green fields: seeking and finding eco-jobs in the 90s.
Who Benefits from the Nonprofit Sector?
Wanted: critical thinkers, effective communicators; career options for liberal arts graduates.
Preparing for today's job market: concrete advice for liberal arts majors.
Learn to market your liberal arts degree for a lifetime career.
Montana's nonprofit arts sector: an economic seedbed.
Working Together.
JOB CENTER UNDER INVESTIGATION.
Show business. (Letters).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters