How Do I Become a Nonprofit Manager?
If you read the last post on nonprofit management and are interested in learning more, then perhaps a role as a nonprofit manager is right for you. So now the question is, what’s the best way to pursue such a role?
As you might expect, there are many paths and none of them is necessarily right; it really depends on each individual’s interests and talents, and the specific opportunities available.
However, there are some timeless truths for managers. Many of these are described at length in other sections of the IHS Policy Career Guide, so I will only give details for those that are not covered elsewhere:
• Personnel management is usually required. There is a huge difference between project/program management and personnel management. The latter, as mentioned above, is much more challenging, and many folks are not good at it. If you have experience and skills with managing people, you are in a much better position to earn a management role and command a higher salary. If you don’t have such experience, try to take on a project in which you will have to supervise an intern or an assistant. That is a good start.
• Be entrepreneurial. Don’t just talk and gripe. Instead, take action, seize opportunities, and solve problems. Being entrepreneurial is how you get things done. So, for example, when you run into a problem, don’t just go to your boss with your hands in the air (doing so exports your work to your boss— which is not good). Instead, when you have a problem, go to your boss with a clear understanding of the problem, an analysis of ways to potentially solve the problem, and your recommendation. Then, your boss can simply react to your analysis and recommendation, and you win points for being entrepreneurial and getting things done.
• Don’t be a mercenary. Both growing within a single organization and moving around a bit have their advantages. Of course, it’s fine to change jobs when the right opportunity comes around. But you don’t want to be (or earn a reputation as) a job-hopper who can’t commit, doesn’t know what she wants, and/or can’t live up to her obligations.
• Be humble.
Chad Thevenot is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Institute for Humane Studies. This post is an excerpt from the Management chapter of the IHS Policy Career Guide. The next excerpt from this chapter will discuss some of the challenges faced by nonprofit managers.
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