Career Changers Set Their Sights on Nonprofits

As the country digs itself out of recession, thousands of Americans are still without jobs. Times are difficult, but you know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

The question is, where do they go?

For some corporate go—getters who've joined the ranks of the unemployed, the answer is simple, if a little unlikely—the nonprofit sector.

"Some career changers, as well as many just starting their careers, are finding they have an opportunity to align their personal values with their professional goals," says John A.Yankey, PhD, interim executive director of Case Western Reserve University's Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations.

And while nonprofits have by no means gone untouched by the financial crisis, consider these statistics:

  • 12 percent of the Mandel Center's students are career changers
  • The Bridgespan Group, which helps executives transition to nonprofits, says the field will need 640,000 new senior managers by 2016
  • Bridgespan reported 24,000 vacancies for leaders of nonprofits in 2009
  • Career changers with nonprofit degrees or certificates can expect to earn $20,000 to $40,000 more than colleagues lacking similar credentials, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals
  • Although nonprofit chief executives' salaries vary significantly, they earn an average of $115,000, up to nearly $1 million for major foundations