Nonprofit organizations offer more than volunteer work

By Kate Leifheit

James Vogl, recruitment director for Teach for America, could not wipe a small smile from his face as he reminisced over the memory of teaching a student who was on his second attempt at fourth grade. With encouragement the young boy came into school early and stayed late each day, setting and conquering goals so he would be able to finally read and make his teacher proud.

“You are basically handed the biggest problem you could solve in your life,” Vogl said about the education inequity throughout the country. Teach for America is only one nonprofit organization available for graduates and undergraduates to experience before diving into the corporate world. It is also an organization that some people work for their entire life.

In 2006, according to the National Center of Charitable Statistics Web site, Illinois housed 59,861 nonprofit organizations making a total income of $64,270,642,873.

Greg Hatch, assistant director at the Career Center, said the biggest myth about working for nonprofit organizations is that it is only volunteer work.

He recalls helping a student find a job that fit perfectly with his passions, but “as soon as the student saw nonprofit he said, ‘No, no, no. I need something that pays.'”

Hatch says money-wise the opportunities nonprofit and corporate organizations have are similar; the smaller the company the less money you may make, but there are a lot of large nonprofit organizations out there.

Kasey Umland, program director at the University YMCA, said she likes the challenge of working in a small business with a very limited budget.

“It’s kind of an enjoyable and rewarding process to go through and say, ‘What do we need the most and how will each little thing impact us?’ And when you are flushed with resources you don’t necessary think about what the impact of every small decision will be,” Umland said.

Nonprofit organizations need the same management and group of jobs that corporate sectors do, said Rebecca Bryant, assistant dean and director of career advising and external relations in the Graduate College,

There are many resources on campus students can use to help explore the organizations that are right for them. The Office of Volunteer Programs provides lists of jobs in service for both nonprofit and profit organizations. The Career Center also provides strategies that students can use when pursuing their career choice.

The number one suggestion for getting involved in nonprofit careers is nothing new, Bryant said.

“Network. I’d say the exact same thing no matter what they were doing, but it’s very important to network when trying to break into nonprofits,” said Bryant.

The Career Center is planning a nonprofit and government career fair for March 16, 2009, to help expose students to more career options and give them a chance to introduce themselves to recruiters.

“Look for organizations that align with your own personal mission in life,” Vogl said.