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You’re already qualified: mapping work experience to a nonprofit role



Curious about segueing into the nonprofit world, but wondering how you might fit in? The simple answer may just be, “Very nicely.”

Nonprofits and for profit corporations are more alike than you may think. Bigger nonprofits employ large staffs and manage annual budgets in the millions and they need employees with a wide range of skills, including the ones you have.


“The biggest surprise moving into a non-profit was that I could run Blue Planet just like a for-profit company in terms of setting goals, measuring progress and managing based on what works,” Lisa Nash, a former Yahoo VP of Marketing who segued to a nonprofit career, told the Huffington Post. “The only difference was that our ‘profit’ was the number of people who gained access to safe drinking water.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest available figures, the nonprofit sector employs over 14.4 million workers – an increase of more than 14% from the decade before. And with an estimated 1,571,056 organizations in operation, demand for skilled professionals is only growing.

In an article for The Economist, Kate Rodriguez offers that millennials are the best thing to have happened to nonprofits. “Not only do these workers come wired with many of the soft skills organizations want – they generally embrace flexibility, innovation and meaningful work,” she wrote. “For instance — they are also eager to change the way business gets done.”

And this means, those intangible tools you’ve picked up during your career are worth promoting. Managing employees, organizing projects and events, the ability to collaborate with diverse groups, budgeting, cost cutting, social networking, a willingness and a passion to commit to mission-driven work may not exactly be in your job title, but don’t underestimate their value when it comes to philanthropic work.


Nonprofits and for profit corporations are more alike than you may think

“Knowing my passion for community development and sustainable agriculture, one of my professors from the University of the Philippines recommended me for an opening,” said Abby Verdillo about her experience as an advocacy officer with the Farmer-Scientist Partnership in a story for The Muse. “It was an incredible experience! I got to meet and work alongside some of the world’s best thinkers on the issue. I learned to plan and coordinate activities in collaboration with others, write proposals and reports for funders, and present at local and international events.”

Do you have past volunteer experience? Reach out to the connections you made. They’ll help you navigate the nonprofit waters. Do you know LinkedIn has an entire section devoted to nonprofits? Join nonprofit LinkedIn Groups, find jobs in nonprofit organizations and opportunities to volunteer.

And if you haven’t done much volunteering, it’s not too late to start. Often, these situations can be stepping stones to entry level nonprofit jobs.


“My first job wasn’t actually a job—it was volunteering. When my husband and I got married, we moved to Atlanta for an amazing career opportunity he was offered,” Jacquelyn Ulrich, the Cultural Orientation Coordinator for Lutheran Services of Georgia, Inc. told The Muse. “While I was looking for a job in a rough market, I decided I would volunteer teaching English to refugees at a local nonprofit. I immediately fell in love with the students I taught, and knew that I wanted to do something that would have a direct impact on the lives of local former refugees.”

In the end, there may be more transferrable skills in your experience toolkit than you realized. And if you’re looking to combine this with purpose-driven work, don’t be afraid to follow your heart.


[1] McKeever, Brice & Gaddy, Marcus. (2016) The Nonprofit Workforce: By the Numbers. Retrieved from:
[2] National Center for Charitable Statistics. (2016). Quick Facts About Nonprofits. Retrieved from:
[3] Rodriguez, Kate. What top nonprofits look for in job applicants. Retrieved from:
[4] The Muse Editors. How to Break Into Nonprofit Work. Retrieved from:
[5] Whelan, Fred and Stone, Gladys. Misconceptions of Working at a Non-Profit. Retrieved from:
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