Watching a friend die of cancer eight years ago moved Margaret Clausen to act. "Having seen how she suffered and the quality that was brought to the end of her life, I realized the difference hospice could make," Clausen says softly.
Today, she is executive director of the California State Hospice Association, an agency that oversees two other organizations in the legislative, educational and research arena promoting quality end-of-life care.
Although her background is in the social sciences and managing not-for-profit associations, she has met people from many corporate positions who have brought a variety of skills to nonprofits, such as managerial experience, meeting planning, and communication.
"One of the rewarding aspects (of the job) is working with a variety of people who are committed to the big picture," she states. "These people give immense amounts of time outside their regular day jobs."
Clausen concedes that working for nonprofits may not be for everyone. The work environment would not be attractive to anyone who desires structure and predictability. In her case, she welcomes the variety of her days, which are never predictable. She must multi-task and be able to change gears in a heartbeat.
"If you are easily bored, it's a great job," she declares. "In fact, it's more than a job. I'm making a difference."
Peter Hughes, an administrative assistant with the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, has another reason for working in the nonprofit sector.
"After six months in the recovery program, I was released but wanted to give something back to those who helped me," he says. "So I applied for any opening they had because I felt comfortable and wanted to work here." His background was in accounting, so he felt he was suited for the administrative department.
The agency has openings all around the Bay Area. Truck drivers are always needed and there are openings for rehabilitation counselors as well.
"The pay may be lower than similar jobs in the corporate sector, but it's satisfying," Hughes confides. "In this tight job market, I wouldn't consider looking for another position now and perhaps losing it a few months later."
Rewards in Relief
Marian Wilson-Sylvestre, external relations officer at the Oakland Chapter of the American Red Cross, began her career 21 years ago. "I have a master's degree in social work and was recruited for a special program working to help reduce recidivism in youth," she recalls. "Someone I knew said, ' Marian, this is the perfect job for you.' And I suppose it was."
She's had various jobs in the agency as well as working with communities, donors, volunteers, board members, staff and community-based organizations.
"I like the Red Cross specifically because I like its mission statement: 'Helping others in time of need,' and that is compelling," she states. "If you can give help - a warm blanket or a cup of soup - to someone who has lost everything through no fault of their own, it is very rewarding."
Wilson-Sylvestre praises the thousands of volunteers who work late without grumbling and the community organizations who come to the table to help out in an emergency. "It's amazing what happens when people pull together in time of need. There seems to be a common mission to make the community better."
She advises those looking for some satisfaction along with their paycheck to "ask yourself if employment in nonprofits is for you. There are long hours and not always top pay, but you can't get the satisfaction anywhere else."
Wilson-Sylvestre says it's been a good career and she has been able to develop her skills, and the training and tools to do the job better have always been there.
"I've been able to travel and meet people from other cultures," she reports. "I was in Tokyo, Guam and other locales in the aftermath of natural disasters, and worked with volunteers who come from all walks of life."
Helping the Homeless
While working for the Sierra Club in San Francisco, Rosie Kaplan began to rethink how she might have more of a local impact. "I felt the environment would always be there, but the homeless problem was becoming an epidemic," she recalls. "It seemed to represent all the social service gaps because people become homeless when everything else doesn't work."
She now works as an administrator with Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency in Berkeley. The agency is a service and advocacy program that assists homeless and low-income individuals and families, with 28 program sites in the East Bay.
"When the safety net falls apart, these people end up at our door," she explains. "We deal with people who are economically disadvantaged and poorly educated, with mental health and substance abuse problems. They have every complication imaginable in their lives, including domestic violence."
She believes many in the community care, but do not know how to get involved. Part of her job involves developing a volunteer network.
She also searches for free resources. "We focus on acquiring as much as we can for free so the organization can spend money on services," she remarks. "This includes food and toiletries, furnishings and equipment like computers, as well as personal things they need when moving out of the shelters into their own space."
Kaplan says the staff does everything from handing out towels to those in shelters to teaching computer and literacy classes and job training programs. The agency typically has four to five job openings.
"The most satisfying part of my job is connecting with people who really care."
For more information on nonprofit careers:
- Craigslist.org - Especially effective for the Bay Area. Click on Nonprofit Jobs for a wide-ranging list of choices.
- Idealist.org - A website by Action Without Borders, with links to more than 28,000 nonprofits and a career center featuring job listings and a schedule of job fairs. (212) 843-3973.
- NonprofitJobs.org - Offers job searches and links to other resources. Jobseekers fill out an online profile form to help match their criteria to current openings. (702) 259-9580.
- OpportunityNocs.org - A source of nonprofit job listings for administrative, staff and professional positions. Offers resume posting, job searches by state, and an e-mail newsletter coming soon. The original print edition of Opportunity Knocks (Nonprofit Organization Classifieds) was started by The Management Center in 1986 as a way to connect nonprofit employers and jobseekers in the San Francisco Bay Area. (800) 344-6627 x2635.
- Philanthrophy.com - Home of the Chronicle of Philanthrophy, electronic newspaper of the nonprofit world. Includes a help-wanted section.
- PNNonline.org - A wealth of news, information and resources related to the nonprofit industry. Click on "Career Center" for a list of current openings and online application form. (804) 342-7665.
Organizations mentioned in this article: