How Women Can Find Work at a Nonprofit

9 tips to help you make the transition out of the corporate world

by Kerry Hannon • Next Avenue
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

The other night, I had dinner with a friend who runs a nonprofit based in New York City. She’s in her late 50s and made the transition from a big-bucks financial industry post a few years ago. She loves her job.
 
That said, my friend was a bit wiped out when we first sat down. She was hot off the four-and-a-half-hour Megabus ride from Washington, D.C., which set her employer back around $11, a fraction of the $218 ticket for Amtrak’s Acela Express. My guess is that in her corporate days, hopping the train for the far faster, and probably more comfortable, two-and-a-half-hour journey would have been a no-brainer.
 
But taking the Megabus is the kind of tradeoff you make when you go to work for a nonprofit. That’s okay if, like my friend, you believe in your mission.
 
Switching to Nonprofit Work

Maybe you, too, are thinking about making the switch from a corporate job to a nonprofit. Many women in their 50s and 60s are — and plenty already have. If so, I have some advice on how to make the switch.
 
There’s something about hitting midlife that makes us pause and think: Is this all there is? Is it really all about making money? How can I leave some kind of legacy?
 
Jobs in the nonprofit sector — especially management positions in small and mid-size organizations — have traditionally been a sweet spot for women. Most nonprofits with budgets of $1 million or less have women CEOs, and women lead 64 percent of organizations with budgets under $250,000.
 
(MORE: The Boom in Job Seekers Looking for Encore Careers)
 
I think there are three key reasons why women gravitate toward nonprofit work (aside from our altruistic natures):
 
Flexibility. Nonprofits tend to offer more leeway than corporations in terms of hours, flex-time, job-sharing and telecommuting. Although my dinner companion took a colossal pay cut when she gave up her six-figure corporate job for her nonprofit position, she was able to bargain for nonmonetary perks, like plenty of vacation, as a tradeoff.
 
Opportunity. Men often aren’t rushing in to run a nonprofit or work full-time for one. The end result: less competition for women to get hired.
 
Collaboration. Women, by nature, tend to succeed in work situations where decisions are frequently made by consensus. And many nonprofits emphasize a collaborative workstyle.
 
9 Tips for Landing Nonprofit Work

In my forthcoming book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy... And Pays the Bills, I devote a chapter to how to land a nonprofit job. Here are my nine top tips.
 
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Photo courtesy of  marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com

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