Making the Move from Corporate to Nonprofit

by Susan Mullin

TorchLight shares our tips for job seekers considering a move from corporate to nonprofit work

candidate in orange sweater interviewing for their new nonprofit job

According to a survey by Nonprofit HR, 45% of nonprofits plan to create new jobs this year. Also, 40% seek experienced managers with a business background. With all of these options abound, candidates seeking new jobs are usually eager to explore the marketing sector. But for those making the move from the private to the nonprofit sector, this shift should be carefully managed. There are a few key differences between the two:

1. Stakeholders

In the business world, most business activity focuses on serving key groups: customers and shareholders. While there are certainly other stakeholders, a for-profit’s objectives are laser focused on selling to customers and answering to shareholders.

While many for-profit businesses are starting to expand their definition of a stakeholder, in the nonprofit world, stakeholders usually cover a much broader base of interests. A sample of typical nonprofit stakeholders include the board, local and federal regulators, donors and members, the media and the community at large.

2. Culture

Market conditions have caused many nonprofits to adopt some of the business models found in the private sector. However they operate, nonprofits prioritize mission before profit, creating innate differences in approach and culture. Success in a nonprofit is often marked and measured by connections,  as well as allies and support, so managers must be comfortable operating in a collaborative, inclusive way that gets everyone behind you.

3. The Board

Nonprofit boards are often volunteers who are deeply committed and passionate about the mission of the organization. And the more active and involved the board, the more success a nonprofit can achieve in terms of fundraising and building alliances. This can work in the organization’s favor, but it also can prove challenging for a manager without direct experience with a board of directors. Before taking on a role with a nonprofit, candidates should take the time to learn more about the board and its role in the organization.

While there are clear differences between nonprofit and for-profit organizations that should be considered in an employment search, candidates will do well by doing the same kind of research and preparation you would do for any job.

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Posted in , Professional Development