Intimidated may sound like a strange word since I made this change very intentionally. Here’s why it applies: I was fortunate that nonprofits saw my resume and were interested in interviewing me. I went on these interviews and met founders of nonprofits as well as board and staff members of charities that were truly changing the world. All I knew was that I was ready, willing and able to help them raise money to fund their missions. I felt good about my desire to serve but uncomfortable that I too didn’t have a very specific and directed passion…yet.
In hindsight, I see that this was OK – and not even unusual. Once I secured my first role, it led me to a journey of discovery for those causes I was passionate about. Ultimately, this process was a funnel that allowed me to explore many aspects of nonprofit work including the issues, types of charities and opportunities to serve. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to get your first job with little or no nonprofit background. Here are three suggestions for obtaining that valuable experience. (spoiler alert: these probably won’t be shockers; it’s just that they work!)
- Donate to a Charity: If there’s a charity you already support, you have a terrific opportunity to explore other opportunities to get involved in their work. Do it! Volunteer. Serve on their board or a committee. Offer to share your skills or expertise. On the other hand, if you haven’t been supporting a charity, this is your chance to learn.
- Volunteer Somewhere - Anywhere: I hear you: You’re saying I don’t even know where I want to volunteer! No problem. Go on to volunteermatch (www.volunteermatch.com), idealist (www.idealist.org) or the myriad of other sites and find something – anything – that sounds fun and interesting. Big Caveat here: Make a small commitment – only something you’re sure you can keep. You’re testing the waters and that’s OK. But manage expectations; theirs and yours. Don’t sign up for a long-term commitment before you know if you have the slightest interest. Go with a day of service, a specific project – in short, something manageable and a commitment you can keep.
- Take on A Pro Bono Project: This is a personal favorite and something I’ve learned so much from. I particularly like this approach if you’re working in the corporate sector and looking to transfer your skills into the nonprofit sector. Sites like the Taproot Foundation (www.taprootplus.org) and catchafire (www.catchafire.org) connect you with nonprofits that need assistance with fundraising, marketing, public relations – and just about every other type of specialized help you can imagine. This is a great way to see if your skill set is a fit while helping a charity accomplish an important task or project.
While this list is far from complete, if you’re not sure where you might be a fit, trying one or several of these should give you a head start. And remember, it’s OK not to know! You don’t have to rush a decision and there’s a lot of good you can do while enjoying the journey.