Author Topic: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?  (Read 7734 times)

Gray Matter

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Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« on: April 08, 2014, 05:39:49 AM »
Not sure if this is "off-topic" or not, but I figure it involves making money (albeit less than I am currently making)...

A little background...I have applied for an Executive Director position for a small non-profit and have an interview tomorrow.  I am currently in industry and have been for the past 12 years, prior to that I had a small company (with two business partners) for six years that primarily worked with non-profits and government agencies, and prior to that I worked for a non-profit in program management.  I have a Ph.D. in a relevant field and personal experience/passion around the cause.

I don't even really know what I'm asking.  I guess I am curious about the interview process, what questions they might ask, what a search committee cares about (fundraising, for example), what concerns they might have about someone moving from industry,  do's and don'ts of interviewing.  I am 43 years old and haven't interviewed for a job since I was 19, so I'm woefully inexperienced.

Also, for anyone who has made this move, was it a good move or did you regret it?  I would be working as hard or harder for less money, but am hoping that the work will be more intrinsically rewarding and therefore worth it.  It's also closer to home (2 miles!), and, I believe, more flexible (I would be working some evenings and weekends at events, but would also be more available during the day for kid stuff).  How did you go about making a decision?  Was it all analytical (pros/cons) or did you listen to your gut?

Also, any advice for taming the butterflies?

catccc

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2014, 07:05:21 AM »
I work in finance/accounting, and recently made a move to a non-profit.  I like it a lot, but we run very business-like, and our CFO likes to say that non-profit is a just a tax status.

The interview will really depend on the organization and the interviewer, mine was much like others I've had.  Would you give yourself the job?  If so, why?  Be prepared to tell them why you would be good for the job, and why you want to work there.  It sounds like you have the experience for it, I think interviews are more about showing you have the right personality for the organization's culture.

Good luck!

NonprofitER

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 02:53:31 PM »
I'm a nonprofit ED with a small organization (less than 5 full time staff).  I don't know what area of the country you're in or how your industry experience relates to whatever nonprofit you're interviewing for, but I think something that can help prepare for the interview is determining the questions YOU have for the organization.  Jot them down and take them to the interview - at the very least, you'll appear well thought and prepared.

Offhand, my initial thoughts knowing nothing about the job -
1. How big is the staff that I will be tasked with managing?  What are their roles/ responsibilities, etc.?  Often times small organizations are plagued with "everyone does everything" syndrome and there's less organizational structure.  Not a bad thing, per se, but it can present challenges that you'd want to be aware of.

2. What is the annual budget of the organization and the revenue streams?  Do most of the operational funds come from inidividual ("bread and butter") donors, or major gifts?  How much (if any) foundation/ government/ grant funding does the organization strive to get each year?  Is there a development team or staff, or does the ED primarily responsible for fundraising?  How active is the board of directors in fundraising?  These last two questions are key because my experience has been that they expect the ED to do the heavy lifting of fundraising in small organizations that lack a full development team.   Ask to see annual reports from the last several years (this will give you a clue as to how organized the organization is and/or how much work it needs).

3. Ask about the board.  Is it a working board, or primarily a governance structure?  How involved are they in programs, fundraising, operations, etc.?  How often do they meet with the ED and are the ED expectations clearly laid out in a job description and annual reviews?  How big is the board?  Are there term limits (if not, RUN)? 

4. Who was the previous ED?  (If the answer is "the founder" - consider your options very seriously.... replacing a founder is not fun or easy)

5.  Does the organization have a strategic plan? Is their mission clearly defined? Do they have ways of measuring not just output but IMPACT?  IE, there's a difference between tracking how many meals a soup kitchen puts out each year and tracking how many homeless families/ individuals were able to transition into more permanent housing as a result of the organizations programs.  Not to sound hyper critical, but lots of small organizations sprout up and work for years on short term rather than long term measures, and with the fundraising dollars harder to come by in a competitive nonprofit world, every organization has to identify its value and sustainable impact much more intelligently. 

I'd say talk/ ask about best practices and how the organization ensures that its reviewing recent research on whatever issue they are fighting (poverty, domestic violence, recycling, etc.).  Academics in sociology and other fields are very actively adding more and more knowledge about how habits change/ sustainable impact can be best implemented, etc. And you want to make sure the organization you're going into is open to and/or already using the most recent research available. 

I hope this is helpful.  As I said, not knowing the specifics (which is fine) means I'm throwing giant darts at your situation.  I'm sure if they are calling you for an interview you've got a great track record to begin with.  Good luck!

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2014, 04:13:26 AM »
Would you give yourself the job?  If so, why? 

This is such an interesting question...when I look at my resume, I impress myself!  I would totally hire that person.  But I also suffer from Impostor Syndrome and think, "I'm not nearly as good as my resume implies."  But everything on my resume is true and accurate, if summed up in as positive of words I can think of without being misleading.

The good news is, I have learned over the years not to listen to that voice in my head, and not to be too self-deprecating (just a little bit), so I think I'll come across confident enough in an interview.  Still, something to think about.

I don't know what area of the country you're in or how your industry experience relates to whatever nonprofit you're interviewing for, but I think something that can help prepare for the interview is determining the questions YOU have for the organization.  Jot them down and take them to the interview - at the very least, you'll appear well thought and prepared.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply--it is extremely helpful!  It's amazing how relevant your comments are, even without knowing anything about the non-profit or its cause.  I would be well-served to remember that I am also interviewing them--fit is incredibly important to me and I believe it is to them, as well.  I will go in with my list of questions, many directly from your e-mail.  The things you pointed out to discuss/consider are spot on.

So...today's the day!  I'm nervous, sick-to-my-stomach nervous, but also looking forward to it.

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2014, 05:07:54 AM »
Good luck today, Gray Matter!  And don't forget you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  ;-)

Rural

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2014, 05:27:30 AM »
Best of luck today!

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2014, 09:06:11 AM »
Thanks to everyone who offered advice and good wishes!  It did help to feel like I had intelligent questions to ask and to remind myself that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me.  I didn't feel like it was a fantastic interview, but it was good enough to get me through to round two (sometime next week).

At this point, I have some misgivings about the job.  There is much to like about it (the cause, the staff, the location), but there are a few big things to be concerned about.  I'm not sure the board is aligned in their vision and the job seems really big--too much for one person.  So this next round will definitely be about me making sure the job is even something I want.

Plus, I have a new boss as of Monday, and I really like him (so far).  So right now, I'm feeling more optimistic about my current job than I have in awhile.  We'll see.

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2014, 03:44:58 PM »
Just reporting back in.  Over the past few weeks, I had one-on-one interviews with five people who were part of the group interview.  Those went MUCH better (at least the four that were in person; the one that was on phone was more challenging as I find it hard to connect over the phone).  I had the chance to get to know each of them, answer their specific questions, ask my own (which helped to alleviate many of my concerns--I definitely want this job), and engage in good discussion.  It was, dare I say it, fun!

I found that they called all four of my references today--I'm on pins and needles!  Does this mean I'm their top pick, or is it customary to call references for the top two or three candidates to help make the final decision?

On the "oh well" side of things, I am really enjoying my new boss (four weeks on the job for him), so if I don't get this job, life will still be pretty sweet.

This is quite the nerve-wracking process.

NonprofitER

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2014, 07:31:31 PM »
That's awesome news Gray Matter!  I reckon references are reserved for the top candidate (in my experience).
Keep us posted.

Norrie

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2014, 09:30:16 PM »
Ooh! I'd agree that it sounds like you're in the top pick category. I'm looking forward to the update!

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2014, 05:14:21 AM »
So wonderful!  In my experience they only call references if you're their top pick, so it sounds good.

What's great is that even if you don't get it for whatever reason (they suddenly decide not to hire someone, budget cuts, whatever), you've got a good situation where you are.  It's always nice to come at things from a position of strength.  :-)

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2014, 05:19:54 AM »
Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!  I Skyped my hubby last night and he burst my bubble a bit by saying they always call references for the top two or three candidates.  I already knew I was in the top few, so if that's the case, it not new news.  But still, it's progress and hopefully means they'll be making a decision soon. 

I have new-found respect for anyone going through a job search, either by choice or by circumstances.  It's difficult to put yourself out there--so much of your fate rests in others hands when it comes to the final decision.  As mentioned, I'm in a good situation in that either outcome will be fine, and it's still difficult!

Hopefully I will hear something today or later this week.

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2014, 05:30:34 AM »
Well...this may be happening!  I got a call last night from the chair of the board--the search committee has selected me as their final candidate!  The rest of the board needs to vote to approve their decision, but he says there was "consensus" among the search committee and this is more of a formality than anything.

The salary is about what I expected, but less than I hoped for, so I did a little gentle negotiating and am hopeful that they'll come up a bit.  It'll still represent a significant pay cut as I move out of the corporate world, but it's really not about money at this point for me, so whatever the result, I will accept the job.  Not to mention that in the back of my mind is the thought, "Every extra dollar they pay me is another dollar I have to fundraise." 

I won't tell my current employer until the board has voted and I have an offer letter in hand, which should be sometime next week.  It'll be hard keeping the "secret" as I'm a very open person, but I know I need to until it's official.

I'm very, very excited, and nervous, and my mind is racing. 

Thanks for all your help and support--can't believe this is really (probably) happening!

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2014, 06:25:02 AM »
Congrats!! So excited for you!  :-)

Rural

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2014, 06:30:08 AM »
Congratulations!

avonlea

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2014, 06:31:07 AM »
Congrats, Gray Matter!

HappierAtHome

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2014, 05:46:25 PM »
That's awesome, gray matter :D

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2014, 06:07:20 PM »
Thanks, everyone.  It's been a strange day of mixed feelings.  Really excited, really nervous, wondering if I'm doing the right thing.  In a strange twist of fate, I had drinks tonight with the wife of my current-but-relatively-new boss--he "set us up" because he thought we'd really like each other.  And we do.  I hit it off with her, and I really like him, and I think we could have been a great team...but on Monday I'm going in to his office to resign.  "It's not you, it's me.  I hope we can still be friends."

Plus I got the paperwork today, and the financial reality of this is sinking in.  I've been saying all along that it's not about the money, I don't care about that anymore, but facing the cold harsh reality of a 40% pay cut, losing out on a year's worth of 401(k) match, no more bonuses...well, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.

Choosing to earn significantly less at the same time I'm focused on savings...just feels incongruent.  But then again, my corporate job felt incongruent with my values, so there you have it (not that they clash, but I just wasn't making a difference in the world in the way I wanted).  I don't want to make career decisions based on money any more--I've done enough of that in my lifetime.  So I know this is the right thing to do.

Transitions are hard.
 

Rezdent

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2014, 06:14:14 PM »
Congratulations!

Norrie

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2014, 06:16:16 PM »
I am so proud of you for doing what's right for you. The money thing will be just fine, and you are following a path that others wish that they could. I'm really excited for you, and can't wait to hear the updates.

Are you going to schedule a bit of time for yourself between leaving one place and starting at the other? That part kind of switching jobs kind of rules.

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2014, 06:39:47 PM »
...but the more I answer those the more I believe the new spin:  management wants someone with a lot of proven experience, as this is a very high level hire, and I want to help them identify the best possible candidate so that I can continue to learn and grow under their leadership.  The more I say it, the more it really makes sense, and the more I actually believe it.  Sure, it still stings a bit that they weren't won over by my golden retriever drooliness, but it is what it is and in a way it is such a relief not to have to worry about it anymore. 

Hey lhamo - This sounds really positive!  You're right about it just being nice to know, regardless of what it is.  And I love how you're taking charge and influencing the outcome as much as you can.  And who knows, you could end up far better off.  I've been happier at work the past five weeks under this new boss (hired from the outside) than I've been in months/years.  Having a great boss, a strong leader, a team player who values you, that you can learn from...there's just no substitute for it.  (And of course, now I'm leaving!)

My hope for you is that you find better work/life balance and that you learn what you want to learn, be it skills that will help you get the Big Job next time, or a sense of "thank god I didn't get that Big Job!"

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2014, 06:48:52 PM »
I am so proud of you for doing what's right for you. The money thing will be just fine, and you are following a path that others wish that they could. I'm really excited for you, and can't wait to hear the updates.

Are you going to schedule a bit of time for yourself between leaving one place and starting at the other? That part kind of switching jobs kind of rules.

Hey Norrie - Thanks for saying this--it's exactly how I would feel if I were reading this instead of living this.  I've always had so much admiration for those who chuck the big corporate job and do something totally different, quitting their big law job to teach inner city students, walking away from bonuses and expense accounts to dig wells in Africa, that kind of thing.  And when I finally do something of the sort, it just feels different, more complicated, but of course it's not.

I'm not going to take any real time off between jobs because I'm hoping to give a month's notice (big event that I run in early June--don't want to bail on that) and the new job would like me to start as soon as possible.  But even more than that, I know myself...I will be thinking and worrying and obsessing about the new job and I'm much better off just getting started, getting a little traction, and then I'll be better able to relax.

Rezdent

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2014, 02:59:45 PM »
I moved to nonprofit years ago.  Even though I love it I have to admit that the one that I moved to had such a different culture that it was difficult to settle in.  There's still the focus on the bottom line but tons of focus on the mission.  Over the last 10 years I've noticed that people newly from the for profit world appear to go through a long adjustment phase.  First they are excited and see lots of places that could be improved.  Around the 6th month mark they get discouraged at the lack of change or progress.   Many leave before the first year is up.  Those that make it to the end of year 2 tend to stay for years.  I went through the same feelings when I joined. I guess what I am saying is, if you take the job,  don't give up too quickly.  Supporting a mission is some of the most rewarding work you could do, but you might have to just slog through at first.

Gray Matter

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Re: Anyone moved from industry to non-profit world?
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2014, 03:11:41 PM »
I guess what I am saying is, if you take the job,  don't give up too quickly.  Supporting a mission is some of the most rewarding work you could do, but you might have to just slog through at first.

This is really excellent advice.  It helps me take a longer view and not worry to much if I go through a period of regret/stress after the honeymoon period.  I have a philosophy about work that goes something like this:  there is shit everywhere, but sometimes you just need new shit to deal with.

I expect there to be some frustrations with lack of resources, slow pace of organizational change, having many bosses (the board), and how slowly real change comes about relating to our mission.  I was talking to a staff person last week and she referred to this as "generational work."  I hadn't heard that term before, but I really like it.  It often takes generations to bring about changes in attitude and culture, and keeping that in mind will hopefully help me from being discouraged.

Of course, I'm coming from a rather conservative and slow-to-change industry, so I've got that going for me!