Monday, April 13, 2009

Volunteer and it may lead to a position

I'm often asked from emerging leaders what they can do to find work in the nonprofit sector. Every day available nonprofit positions seem more and more competitive, leaving lots of questions from individuals navigating their way through it all. Here are some tips...


The best way I've found positions at organizations I loved was to volunteer first. It's a great strategy because if provides the volunteer with an opportunity to "try on" the organization, and the organization to do the same with the volunteer, without all the messy paperwork.

Find an organization that you are passionate about and be proactive in approaching that nonprofit about an opportunity to volunteer. Ask them about their needs and see if you can match your skills, passion, and interests with those needs. For example, are you familiar with social media and does the nonprofit need to set up a Facebook Cause or Page? Maybe this is something that you can help manage for them, and it will help you learn more about the organization.

While it is great to offer your times, also be sure that the organization has the capacity to lead volunteers. Volunteer management is a critical skill that nonprofits rely on, but that doesn't mean that they all managed volunteers well. At one point, I volunteered for an organization coordinating other volunteers, serving as a Supervision Group leader on a hotline. My job as a volunteer in that role was to lead and provide support to other volunteers. Be creative since you never know what will come along.

In a least half the organizations I've worked for, I started out volunteering for them or for a collaborating organization. By being in these nonprofit communities, I heard about job opportunities before they went across the wires publicly. I build relationships and allowed others to see what I was capable of doing. If I would do that much work for free, imagine what I could accomplish with a paycheck and an organizational structure and team behind me!

Emily Davis is a Volunteer San Diego guest blogger and a freelance, nonprofit consultant specializing in communications, board development, and fundraising. Check out her blog, Nonprofit Consulting Cafe.

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