Job hunting? Don’t overlook nonprofits

March 19, 2015, 11:00 AM UTC
San Francisco Career Fair Helps Military Veterans Find Jobs
SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 19: A "now hiring" sign is posted on a table during the Recruit Military Career Fair March 19, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of military veterans attended the career fair that was open only to veterans. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Now that the economy is getting back on track, charitable giving, which took a nosedive during the downturn, is on the rise again. That means the nearly 2 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S., which already employ almost 11 million people, are ready to grow. Yet, partly because even some of the biggest nonprofits have skimpy or non-existent budgets for recruitment, they’re often invisible to job seekers.

That’s too bad, because about 50% of U.S. nonprofits plan to create new jobs in 2015, according to a new survey from research and consulting firm Nonprofit HR — markedly more than the 36% of for-profit companies that say the same.

Looking for job stability? Nonprofits beat their corporate counterparts hands-down, the study says. Consider: Only 7% plan to eliminate any positions this year. By contrast, 74% of for-profit employers plan at least some layoffs in 2015.

One downside of working at a nonprofit is that most can’t pay as well as businesses can. More than one in four (27%) nonprofits polled gave “inability to pay competitively” as their biggest problem in attracting and keeping talent.

“But not all nonprofits are alike. Some of the very large ones can match the compensation that business offers,” says Barbara Lehrer, president of a staffing and headhunting firm called the New York Beacon Group that sometimes recruits managers from for-profit companies to run nonprofits in New York City and its environs.

Besides, people change jobs for all kinds of reasons other than money, she notes, like “the chance to work for a cause they really believe in, but also the prestige, or a better title, and a chance to apply their skills on a broader scale.”

Sometimes people move to the nonprofit world because, as Brian Marcotte puts it, “I was at a point in my career where I wanted to do something different.”

Marcotte spent 21 years at Honeywell, where he was vice president of global compensation and benefits. Since last May, he’s been president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, a research and advocacy group made up of 415 employers, including 67 Fortune 100 companies. Among other things, NBGH members share knowledge and best practices on containing health care costs, which had been an interest of Marcotte’s in his corporate job.

Like most of the other organizations Nonprofit HR surveyed, NBGH is hiring, albeit on a modest scale. “We plan to add jobs as we grow,” Marcotte says. “We gained 28 new member companies last year, and five or six so far this year. So we have created a couple of new positions, which we’re trying to fill right now.”

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