Job seekers and hiring managers: What our surveys reveal about employment in the nonprofit sector

It’s no secret that the past few years have been challenging for nonprofits as they try to serve their clients with shrinking budgets. We saw this first hand last year when we asked nonprofits to share the impact the recession was having on their organizations.

This year, we again approached the thousands of organizations on Idealist to ask them how they’re doing, what they anticipate in the coming year, and to learn more about their human resources practices. We also asked job seekers to share their experiences to get a more complete picture of how the sector as a whole is faring. In total, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and 3,000 active job seekers to find out who’s hiring and who’s looking, the latest in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now.

In general things are looking up with 48% of all nonprofits plan to make new hires in 2012 and 54% say they will offer salary increases in 2012, up from 47% last year. However, what’s compelling are the experiences of job seekers and hiring managers.

What we know about today’s nonprofit job seeker:

From Job Seekers

  • They are experienced: 30% of job seekers are over the age 50; 26% have more than 11 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
  • They value opportunities for career development: In fact, this is one of the top reasons job seekers who are currently employed full-time (33%) are looking to leave their current organizations.
  • They are committed in and outside of the office: 83% of job seekers have volunteered, demonstrating an interest in staying and growing in the sector.
  • They want to hear from hiring managers: The number one challenge job seekers face is the lack of communication from employers. In fact, 86% say they never receive any feedback or follow up at all.

Tip for job seekers: Given your experience and needs, it’s even more important that you are searching for organizations that are a good fit. Be sure you’re searching for the right opportunities by asking yourself a few key questions.

What we know about today’s nonprofit hiring manager:


From Hiring Managers

  • They wear many hats: 84% have responsibilities in at least one other area, most often program management, office/facilities management, and communications.
  • They appreciate attention to detail: Because they have to juggle multiple responsibilities, hiring managers place emphasis on potential employees following instructions in order to move through the hiring process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • They also prefer job seekers not call: Also because of their limited time and resources, 40% of hiring managers prefer that you not follow up about your job application status.
  • They value passion: 86% say that understanding their organization’s mission is very important.

Tip for organizations: With many job seekers looking to leave their current organizations due to lack of advancement, you may need to get creative with how you support your employees. Over at – a community for nonprofit HR professionals  – a nonprofit recently shared a successful leadership pipeline program they created designed to retain and support top talent. You can also strengthen your organization by tapping into the Idealist community.

There is more information in the surveys. Download the Job Seeker Survey and the Organization Survey to learn more.

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Submit your idea. Create more jobs. Win $50,000.

Right now, over 200 million people are without a viable way to make a living, and millions more are in less-than-desirable working conditions around the globe.

Yet it’s not hopeless. With so many brilliant entrepreneurial minds out there, Ashoka’s Changemakers and the eBay Foundation believe solutions are possible.


Image via

The Powering Economic Opportunity: Creating a World that Works competition is open to individuals, organizations and collaborations who think they have what it takes to create sustainable employment opportunities in vulnerable communities around the world. Anyone can submit their idea in English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Five winners will each receive US $50,000. The deadline to submit is June 15. Enter the Changemakers-eBay Empowering Economic Opportunity Competition here:

Stand-out entries will be those that have shown impact, are ready to be replicated elsewhere, and play nicely with others to expand their reach. The creativity is astounding so far. There’s everything from a historic center in Cuba to a farming magazine in Tanzania to a women’s swimming project in Sri Lanka.

So, entrepreneurs: get to it. Employ your imagination, and be a part of helping to bring the jobless millions down to zero. Coming up blank? Share your opinions on the entries themselves, and wage your bets on the best ideas by voting for who will make it to the first round.

Update, 5.13.2011: Ashoka Changemakers recently let us know about a new way to participate in the competition: ChangeSpotting. Until May 25, ChangeSpotters can nominate organizations and social entrepreneurs who are already creating jobs. All you need to do is take a picture of yourself with their logo, or something that makes it clear who you’re nominating, and send it to or upload it to your Facebook or Twitter account. Five randomly selected ChangeSpotters will each receive a $50 gift card to

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Go-to resources for meaningful careers in each sector

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at

Plotting your next career move? Here’s a sampling of comprehensive go-to resources from the career experts in each sector: corporate citizenship, government, or nonprofit.

Corporate citizenship careers

Net Impact’s Corporate Careers that Make a Difference is a guide to pursuing a career in corporate citizenship either by pushing the boundaries in a more traditional corporate role or by taking on a role specifically dedicated to social or environmental impact. The book shares the stories of dozens of professionals who have blazed trails in this work; it also describes key corporate citizenship career competencies (useful both to help you develop your skills as well as to talk about them during a job search).

Net Impact is a membership organization that is inspiring new generations of professionals who put their business skills to work for social and environmental change across sectors through chapter networks, resources, and outreach to MBA students and schools.

You can download the sneak peek here.


Federal jobs by region: image from

Federal careers is a website from Partnership for Public Service that introduces pathways to federal government careers. The site explains what the cabinet departments are, what the federal agencies are; describes the diverse roles federal workers play in their careers; offers informational interviews with federal workers; clarifies what and where federal jobs are (did you know that most are not in Washington, D.C.?) as well as internships.

Partnership for Public Service is a nonpartisan organization that attracts young leaders to federal government service through education, advocacy, and resources that demystify the federal job search and clarify pathways to public-sector service.

Nonprofit Careers

Available both in print and online, the Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers is an A to Z look at landing a job in the nonprofit sector for professionals who started their careers in other sectors. From helping job seekers understand what the sector is (and isn’t) all the way to closing the deal — or starting a new nonprofit instead.

The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-Time Job Seekers (also available in print and online) features similar content by introducing new professionals to career concepts and skills they may be less familiar with.

A companion to both of these guides is Service Corps to Social Impact Career — a guide I wrote for national and international service participants and recent alumni of all ages. Only available online (and free), the book helps corps members prepare for their post-service career transition, explore career options, and translate their service experience during the job search, and settle into a new professional role.

Finally, Making a Difference: A Guide to Personal Profit in a Nonprofit World (also online, also free) from Idealist and the National Endowment for Financial Education offers financial guidance for recent college graduates who are contemplating a nonprofit career and concerned about making ends meet. The book discusses topics like student loans, budgeting, salary search, cost of living, credit and retirement plans.

Of course, there are other sector-specific career guides. What are your favorites? How have they helped you succeed?

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Great News! Increase in Job Postings

By Flickr user Nic McPhee (Creative Commons)

News reports have been pointing to signs that we are finally coming out of this recession, and the numbers on Idealist seem to agree.

In the beginning of 2008, before the economic crisis hit, an average of about 5,000 jobs were posted to Idealist every month. The number of job listings on our site started to drop off in the fall of 2008, and hit a low point in February 2009, when only 2,811 jobs were posted.

But the numbers have been increasing again lately, and in June 2010, our site had 4,659 job listings — almost back to our pre-recession rate. We’re not qualified to draw any broad conclusions about the economy or the nonprofit sector, but this news is definitely encouraging.

Click here to search for nonprofit and government job listings, and check out our other free resources for job seekers. Good luck!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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