Recently I took a new position running development for a local nonprofit: a very unique organization with a small team working in a state-of-the-art LEED certified building. For a whole host of reasons it’s distinctively Austin, and I find it nothing shy of refreshing. But, in today’s job market, where qualified candidates outnumber the availability of positions, it can be tough to be picky. That being said, I feel that no one should sell themselves short when it comes to where they’re going to spend 8-12 hours each day.
So what is a job seeker to do? Get online.
Websites usually serve as the pretty face with makeup for a nonprofit organization. We post what we want prospective donors and potential volunteers to see. We upload feel-good images, client testimonials, and organizational success stories. Under the surface, a nonprofit’s website can share a great deal of information with a prospective employee. Beyond the organization’s website, the world wide web can highlight the staff members in such a way it’ll be obvious whether or not you want to shit in a cubicle next to them for the next few years.
The Organization’s Website
1. Every website tells you the physical address, so you can determine your commute length and with google-earth you can also view the style of the building and gauge the size/amenities of the facility.
2. Almost every website offers a “Meet our Team” page as a fundraising/marketing tool. Taking the time to read the staff bios shows you who you’ll be working with on a daily basis. Not only will you get a feeling for the organization’s personnel size, but also the skillsets that your potential coworkers will be bringing to the table. This offers the ability to do a spot check to see if your skills enhance the team and can support the organization’s goals.
3. Do you have an “in”? Looking at the staff pages also allows you to find any professional contacts who might be able to put in a good word for you if you decide to move forward.
4. Nonprofits aren’t shy about displaying their programs, special events, big fundraising pushes and experience of their CEO and /or board. Its easy to get a feeling for how well things are organized and the pace based on the content they display. Looking at an events calendar can also shed some light onto the potential workload, especially if it seems as if events and campaigns are stacked around a particular season or time of year (ie: holidays and annual campaigns)
Good ol’ Google Search
1. Usually a google search will pull up old press releases, which will allow you to gauge the success of past events and fundraising campaigns, as well as any major developments (like a capital campaign, etc.) the organization has undergone.
2. Collaborations. Charities who partner with other organizations (especially from a development side) are usually very creative and flexible in their development plans. Checking to see if the organization has worked with similar charities in the past can be a good indicator of the creative freedoms you may be afforded.
3. Staff Stalking. Searching out potential coworkers will bring up their personal blogs, linkedin pages, or facebook accounts. Even though this sounds a tad invasive, this information is all out in the public domain, and you can get a great view into the demographics of the staff – Are they young? Would you want to go to a happy hour with this crowd?
How do they score?
Charity Navigator rates other nonprofits in a variety of topics, from transparency to financial stability, and also provides the mission statement and revenue reports if available. It's a good insight to their overhead and how well they are committed to their mission.
How do they (really) treat their volunteers?
For many organizations, volunteer match provides the opportunity for volunteers to post reviews and anecdotes about their volunteer experiences. Like yelp and other review sites, you’re likely to see the extremes, but at least you’ll leave knowing 2 primary things – how they treat volunteers, and if they deploy volunteers within the department you’re looking to join. This can be a key factor, as some individuals view volunteers as a burden while others will embrace the help and see it as an asset.
The Big Cheese
It is a very (let me repeat, VERY) good idea to do some research on the CEO. Get a feeling for their professional background and areas of expertise, as well as what their management style has been like during their tenure. Look at the success of other companies or nonprofit organizations, see how they’re recommended on linked in. Taking advantage of the information on the internet will allow you to see if your work style meshes with their management techniques.
Nothing can replace the experience of meeting staff and hands on learning, but if you’re looking to pursue a new employment opportunity in the nonprofit sector, where understaffing and sweeping job responsibilities are common practice, doing your research can more than pay off when your new position meets your expectations.