Fundraisers and Direct Services Specialists Are Most-Sought Job Categories at Nonprofits

Pundits may disagree on the strength and speed of the economic recovery, but one positive trend has continued: job growth in the nonprofit sector. This year will see an especially dramatic increase, according to the 2016 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey.

The survey, published annually since 2007, says more than half of the nonprofits it polled (57 percent) expect to create new positions, up 7 percentage points from 2015. In contrast, just 36 percent of private companies plan to increase staff size in 2016, the same percentage as last year. The NEP Survey cites five job areas as particularly strong:

  • fundraising
  • direct services
  • community outreach and education
  • program management
  • marketing

Other organizations also point to financial and technical fields such as statistics, as especially hot areas for employment at nonprofits.

Fundraising a top skill

Professional fundraisers are the No. 1 job category at nonprofits, for good reason. Nonprofit organizations depend on an ongoing series of donor-engagement programs and fundraising events, and it takes expertise and talent to run such affairs. Skilled fundraisers and development specialists have long been in demand in the nonprofit sector, but the demand has increased greatly, for several reasons.

As the economy has improved, nonprofits are also more optimistic about the future for individual and corporate giving. This has led to an increased focus on fundraising talent. Today’s fundraising specialists must be agile and multitalented, able to anticipate the next fundraising crisis — a lesson of the recessionary years. They do more than find ways to fill gap in organizations’ finances: They discover new sources and methods for raising money.

Serving people and communities

Direct-services people work directly with the clients of nonprofit service organizations. Because the job requires a rare combination of talent, education, compassion and unflagging dedication, direct-services staff are some of the most essential employees of nonprofits, and the most difficult to find. Their jobs encompass a broad array of talents, including social work, education, counseling and, for nonprofits in the healthcare arena, medical fields like nursing and rehabilitation.

People in direct-service jobs often move up to work in two other strong job sectors: education and community outreach and program management. Community-outreach people often work with specific populations, such as undocumented immigrants or people who speak a particular foreign language. Through direct contact with underserved people, they make them aware of their services.

Program managers are in charge of specific initiatives at nonprofits. They ensure that such programs both stay financially sound while delivering quality service.

Marketing — with an edge

Marketing used to be confined mainly to the for-profit sector. Not anymore. As modern technology has permeated every aspect of nonprofits, nonprofit organizations have become especially adept at using mobile technology and social media for marketing and client outreach. Such technologies are a quick, inexpensive way for organizations to interact with clients and gather data, notes a recent article in Fast Company magazine.

Organizations need marketing people who can develop compelling stories about an organization, its work and its results in the community. This often requires an ability to sift through a mountain of data and turn it into a minute-long video on social media.

Finance and statistics

Just as portfolio managers help people grow their nest eggs, they also can give a boost to the accounts of nonprofits. Results and missions require money – lots of it. Sustaining nonprofits and their missions requires people skilled in investing organizations’ financial resources.

The statistician is yet another numbers-driven person who is in demand at organizations seeking new ways to gather data and better analyze the results. Such information enables organizations to better plan their programs and focus resources where they are most needed.

Areas for improvement

The NEP Survey is published by NonprofitHR, a human-resources consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., and Chicago that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. The sector as a whole needs to devote more attention to recruitment strategies, the report concludes. This will help nonprofits to attract the best talent in what has increasingly become a jobseeker’s market. Nonprofits also need to “brand” themselves as a workplace, showcasing their reputation, mission and culture to prospective employees.

Finally, aggressive recruitment by any organization cannot do anything about turnover. Nonprofits need to do a better job at staff retention, the survey says. This not only ensures adequate staffing levels, but helps vital programs continue seamlessly.


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