EARLY CAREER ADVICE: Careers in the Non-Profit sector – Part 2

PAVI TOOR
VANCOUVER DESI

Students fill out job applications in this photo. It’s critical for young people to think ahead and develop a career plan so they can identify the gaps and beginning filling them, says our writer. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Non-profits employ a large number of people in North America and need highly skilled and experienced individuals to join their organizations but they have some very real human resource challenges.

The Bridgespan Group Inc.‘s 2006 study predicted a huge leadership deficit in U.S. non-profits – the need over the next decade for some 640,000 new senior managers. They studied the same issue in Canada and concluded that non-profit organizations in this country will also have a challenge to find future leaders and that the sector is weak when it comes to succession planning. So a lot of knowledge and skills walk out the door when someone decides to retire as there is no succession plan in place.

The private and public sector are facing the same issue but they have the ability to pay higher wages and/or benefits, such as defined benefit pension plans, compared to the non-profit sector.

The pressure for higher wages and benefits means a heavier burden on the already stretched financial resources of organizations and makes it even more difficult to attract and retain employees. It’s no surprise that the HR Council on Non-Profits recently reported that half of employers who recruited employees found it “difficult” to “very difficult” in hiring qualified staff.

This should be a concern for all of us, especially corporations. Why you ask? Isn’t a corporation’s main objective to maximize profit and satisfy only stockholders? Peter Drucker put it best when he said “A healthy business cannot exist in a sick society.” It would be tough to start and grow a business in an area where most of the population lived in cardboard boxes while grappling with mental health and addiction issues.

It is clear that non-profits have to focus on build versus buy talent strategy. The non-profits have a large pool of volunteers they can tap into for potential talent and leaders. A lot of them are currently employed in the corporate and public sectors.

• Approximately 12.5 million Canadians volunteer and contribute 2.1 billion hours or the equivalent of 1.1 million full time jobs

• In the U.S., 62.7 million volunteers contributed 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in 2010.

Future and current employees need to have specialized skills if their organizations intend to keep their doors open. Advanced computer training (expert knowledge in MS Office is a minimum), legal knowledge, market research, recruiting, fundraising (using social media), and experience working with budgets are just some of skills needed in order to manage a non-profit effectively.

If there are no opportunities currently available in the non-profit sector then get work experience in the private and public sector. Why you ask? Most non-profit organizations confront many of the same challenges as for-profit enterprises: recruiting, retaining, and terminating employees; controlling quality with focus on continuous improvement; and using advanced marketing techniques to compete with other non-profits for funding and donations.

It’s critical for parents and students to think ahead and develop a career plan so they can identify the gaps and beginning filling them. While the plan could span many years, it will be worth it at the end.

For Part 1 of this four-part series, click here.

Pavi Toor is a Human Resources Manager and operates the site www.careersafterschool.com. He can be reached at pavi@careersafterschool.com.

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