Three years ago, tracy smith, age 28, was a whiz kid on Wall Street as a municipal bond manager at Moody’s Investor Service. Today, she works in the non-profit sector for the United Way of New York City as an associate group manager-responsible for raising funds from companies similar to her former employer. She’s still considered a whiz kid–this time for her ability to hit her funding targets “straight between the eyes and in the heart”–and earns almost the same salary she did before.
Why the switch? “On Wall Street, I was going home stressed to the hilt from worrying about bond ratings all day,” says Smith, who also found the environment too straight-laced. “All corporate blue, no nail Polish, no big earrings,” she laughs. “At first, my friends kept asking why I had left all that money behind. I think the new glow on my face was the best answer I could give.”
The grass is definitely getting greener in the nonprofit sector, thanks in large part to a renewed confidence in the economy. In 1995, according to the National Commission on Philanthropic and Civic Research in Washington, D.C., Americans donated more than $144 billion to nonprofit organizations. This increased public generosity–often evident in boom times–has benefited these organizations to the point where the sector now can afford to be an employer of choice. Gone is the image of do-gooders working inefficiently and at pittance wages for the sheer pleasure of helping others. The reality of operating with multimillion dollar budgets has led most nonprofits to adopt a more focused business approach. For the most part, today’s nonprofits run tight and lean, employ entrepreneurial tactics to compete for dollars more effectively and rely on the best and brightest talent they can find to give them a competitive edge.
Having developed a nearly insatiable need for people with business, marketing, financial, technological and other general and specialized talents and skills, many nonprofits are offering salaries comparable to those in the corporate sector, and in many cases superior to those in federal, state and local governments.
According to the Independent Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for nonprofits, there are approximately 1.1 million nonprofit (tax-exempt) organizations in the U.S., representing 27 categories of the Internal Revenue Code. They are as diverse as the National Football League, Harvard University and Fannie Mae. A third of these organizations are churches.
Because nonprofits cover so many fields of interest–charity, education, religion (faith based), health, science, literature, wildlife protection, the arts, even sports–it’s easy to find a niche, whatever your calling.
The Independent Sector also reports that one in 10 Americans already works either full time or part time for a nonprofit organization. In addition, more than 93 million Americans serve as volunteers, working an average of four hours a week.
As Daniel Lauber points out in his book Non-Profits and Education Job Finder (Planning/Communications; $16-95; 888-366-5200), you no longer have to rely on word of mouth to find out Where the good jobs are in the nonprofit sector. “There are