Considering a Career Change? Be a Non-Profit CEO!

There is a wide variety of career options within the non-profit sector.

Note: this blog contains an excellent online training opportunity with link toward the end!

Considering your career options! As many of my blog readers know, my consulting practice has two arms – diversity and career development. In terms of career development, I have written about the importance of each individual owning their career, and asking themselves those penetrating questions to explore what they really want to be doing. It is so critical that long term career aligns with one’s passions.

Back in 2011, I published a 3-part blog series about managing careers:

Part 1 (link) introduced the concept and career mapping – including look where you have been and key skills you have developed during the journey.

Part 2 (link) provided several tools for career management, including a simple spreadsheet to evaluate a job’s fit with your career desires and goals.

Part 3 (link) emphasized really understanding yourself and taking ownership of your career journey.

Aligning career and passions – a short case study. So looking back and parts 2 and 3, one of the passions that people may have is helping make the world a better place. For many people, perhaps for you, making a positive impact on the world through your profession may be more important than work location, recognition, and even pay! I once had a mentee who was very unhappy in his high paying IT job at a major company, and later found deep fulfillment as a social worker making half the salary. (This is not to say that all public sector jobs come with a pay cut … but do understand if personal fulfillment or high pay is higher personal priority.)

If making a positive impact on the world is one of your highest career priorities, perhaps a non-profit sector job is for you. They can come in a wide variety of options – advocating for under-served and oppressed minorities, protecting the environment, helping develop our children, working within the arts arena, working within health care and personal well-being …. The options are endless.

Sean Kosofsky, Mind the Gap Consulting, LLC

Enter Sean Kosofsky, non-profit sector professional extraordinaire! One of my business partners who I have known personally for many years, Sean Kosofsky is a true dynamic leader in the non-profit area. His previous job was as Executive Director of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, an organization created by the Clementi family which seeks to prevent bullying through inclusion, assertion of dignity and acceptance as a way to honor the memory of Tyler Clementi: a son, a brother and a friend. A few years ago, I interviewed Sean in this role for a blog about him and the foundation (link.)

Now Sean is a “Nonprofit Fixer.” He’s worked in nonprofits for 25 years and served as executive director for four organizations. He is a coach and consultant for boards, executive directors and activists of all stripes. His experience includes communications, victim-services, civil rights, environment, policy, bullying prevention, lobbying, management and much more.

Sean is passionate about building successful nonprofits. He especially wants to build strong boards and strong nonprofit CEOs. Sean learned how to run non-profits the hard way – by watching it be done wrong. Sean told me, “Being an Executive Director is incredibly rewarding but it is filled with unique challenges. It’s easy to be thrown into the deep end and told to sink or swim. Your bosses are volunteers who don’t even work at the nonprofit.

The training opportunity! So Sean is offering this online Executive Director Boot Camp course to fill a real gap in our sector…proper preparation for anyone interested in running a nonprofit. No fluff. No theory. No ice breakers. We get down to business with concrete tools and solid wisdom needed to succeed. Most executive directors would have killed to have this info before they started.”

You can learn more about the course and sign up at

Making Volunteers Productive

Unproductive volunteers – perhaps as a result of poor planning

An executive director of a global non-profit approached me all excited; he has solicited for volunteers across the country who would donate their time and talent to his non-profit as part of a volunteer task force. He asked me assist him in structuring this task force. His first inclination was the get the 24 people into a huge teleconference and basically discuss what they all wanted to do. I stopped him in his tracks and suggested that we would end up with a free-for-all “group grope” with nothing getting done. I asked him to take a step back and work with me on a much more prescribed approach.

First, I asked him to succinctly describe the mission and objective of his non-profit.

Second, I asked him to define his roles and responsibilities as executive director and the roles and responsibilities of his board of directions.

Then third, I asked him to within the context of the first two items, define the types of ways he wants volunteers to assist. What kinds of things does he want them to do?

Fourth, I asked him to look through the resume information submitted by the volunteers to understand their particular gifts and talents, and how they match up with the tasks he wants assistance with.

Then I asked him to match smaller subsets of the 24 volunteers and their talents with the tasks he wants done.

Engaged Volunteers!

Now this executive director has a half a dozen small teams of volunteers working enthusiastically and productively on specific tasks he asked them each to do, and they are all making significant task contributions to the non-profit and are all enthused about how they are helping. And once a month we get all the small groups together to share in the contributions we are each making to the non-profit.

Bottom line – the way to most productively engage volunteers is to know what you need done in light of your mission and what other responsibilities are already assigned, match the needs you have to the background and talents of the volunteers, and then ask them do specific meaty projects that match their desires and talents.