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Six Tips for Climbing the Nonprofit Ladder

31 December 2012 One Comment

5121424694_658693b05fSix Tips for Climbing the Nonprofit Ladder


With over 100,000 people checking the job listings at Idealist.org daily, it is obvious that competition in the nonprofit space is fierce. A growing number of people are disillusioned with corporate structure and want to do something that makes a difference. This often translates into a move to a nonprofit job. With an estimated 43 percent of organizations opening positions in the next year, there is definitely work to be had, but many people start in internships or entry-level positions. How do you move up in a nonprofit organization? Here are six ways to climb the nonprofit ladder.

  • Never stop learning. No matter what your experience level is, take advantage of every opportunity to obtain new knowledge or skill sets. Attend workshops, conferences and training seminars. Sit with other employees and ask them about their job or volunteer for different assignments in order to build valuable skills.
  • Offer solutions instead of problems. Although you never want to sweep a problem under the rug, you also do not want to become known as a complainer. A complainer brings problems to leadership on a regular basis. A strong employee points out an issue and suggests ways to resolve it. Problem solvers and critical thinkers are valued in just about any organization.
  • Network within and without your organization and nurture your professional relationships. Take time to chat, listen to or have lunch with colleagues. Contacts and relationships are essential to success in any organization and are a huge benefit in the world of nonprofits.
  • Avoid a silo effect. Be willing to work outside of your job description in order to help the team. Not only will you be seen as a positive team player, you will also develop valuable experience.
  • Ask someone you respect to mentor you. Someone who is willing to pass on experience-laden advice, listen to proposals and provide constructive criticism on your work can be invaluable to helping you succeed over time.
  • Let your boss know you are ready for more responsibility or work. If you become bored with your current work or need additional challenge, speak up. Leaders are often afraid of overburdening staff, so they may not provide the next responsibility until you assure them you are ready. Be patient, however, and do not take offense if leadership is slow to act. They may be looking for the right place to use your skills.

There is no magic formula for moving up in any organization. Success requires hard work, networking, and persistence. Through all of that, do not forget to relax occasionally and celebrate small wins. Taking a needed break, a short vacation or getting out for a fun dinner can be rejuvenating experiences that help you return to your work in a productive and positive fashion.

Amy Brighton is a full-time writer for higher ed blogs and journals nationwide with a focus on online education opportunities.  Several schools offer online degrees, including onlinempa.usfca.edu and www.northwestern.edu.

One Comment »

  • @eemusings said:

    Number 2 is vital, I find – and applicable to all fields. That's one of the biggest things I've learned since graduation: it's always infinitely better if you can offer an answer when you're bringing a problem to attention.