I was recently meeting with the successful, long-term CEO of a large nonprofit and we were discussing the increasing numbers of people who have had careers in business that are now interested in working in the nonprofit sector. I commented that on several of the recent searches that I have supported, more than half of the prospects were from the business sector and had little nonprofit experience beyond serving on a board for a few years.
He shared an exchange with me that he recently had with a successful corporate executive (I am paraphrasing):
Corporate Executive to Nonprofit CEO: I have been successful in business and now I think I am ready to lead a nonprofit - to give back to the community and really make a difference. How do I go about getting a job in the nonprofit sector?
Nonprofit CEO to Corporate Executive: I’ve been very successful in my work as well. How likely are you to hire me to work as an executive in your company?
Corporate Executive to Nonprofit CEO: Not to be critical, but you don’t have any experience in our business and there are many people in our company and in our field that we would consider ahead of you.
Nonprofit CEO to Corporate Executive: Ditto.
Personally, I think the interest of Boomers in business roles moving into nonprofit leadership roles is a very positive thing and could ultimately help in filling both leadership and skill gaps as the older edge of the boomer generation retires. At the same time, there are incredible differences around scale, budgets, organizational culture, multiple stakeholders, and the nonprofit structure that are not an easy transition for many business people.
These business leaders need a path to prepare themselves for these roles. The current route would be to serve on nonprofit boards, volunteer, and get involved in giving back while you are still working in the business sector to develop enough of a network and reputation in the nonprofit segment you aspire to work in that your resume is a match for nonprofit role.
Please share your thoughts.
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