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Why Nonprofit Career Paths Are a Great Choice in 2021

Lakshmi Hutchinson

Illustration by Marian Blair

If you’re thinking about working in the social-impact sector, you might be wondering what the current job landscape looks like as the COVID-19 pandemic eases up in the United States. This is actually the perfect time to pursue a nonprofit career path, as jobs in the sector are beginning to bounce back and the changing workplace will require unique skills. There is also the potential for social-impact organizations to have more leverage to implement change under the new administration. 

A positive outlook for the social-impact sector

More than 7% of nonprofit jobs were lost during the pandemic, and a February 2021 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies estimated that it could take up to two years for the sector to fully recover. However, things are starting to look up. March 2021 saw a jump of 8.9% (81,000 jobs recovered) in nonprofit jobs. More than half of the increases were in educational services, but all areas saw some growth. 

If you’re a recent graduate looking to get your foot in the door at a social-impact organization, but are concerned that the pandemic has hurt your chances, don’t give up hope! Your job hunt may look a little different, just as your workplace may. There are certain things that you can use to your advantage—showing that you’re adept and experienced in using digital platforms could set you apart in an evolving nonprofit landscape.

And much of the advice that held true before the pandemic remains the same: explore different organizations (and see if they offer internships or volunteer positions), take informational interviews, and focus on reaching out to people in your network. 

Trends in fundraising make it an appealing path within the sector

Have you considered fundraising as a specific nonprofit path for you? The global pandemic resulted in an outpouring of small donations. In 2020 gifts of under $250 grew at a rate of 15.3% over 2019—several percentage points more than the rate of larger donations. Fundraisers at social-impact jobs will have to work hard to retain these donors as well as secure larger gifts as the pandemic subsides.. Technology has also taken on a larger role in the fundraising sector. As COVID-19 forced virtual events to replace traditional fundraisers, online fundraising platforms became the go-to tool for reaching new donors.

What this all means is that fundraising is an area that is predicted to grow at a much faster rate than average. The field covers a wide range of activities, including donor research, relationship management, event planning, corporate giving, and grant writing. And changes in how fundraisers work require new skills. If you’re considering a fundraising or development career, this could be an excellent time to start your search or just learn more about the profession.

How the political landscape makes this a great time for change

2021 is also a great year for social-impact organizations looking to bring about long-term, positive change in areas identified as priorities for the current administration. Protecting the environment—and fighting climate change in particular—are once again at the forefront of the news. Similarly, the administration’s focus on education initiatives like Universal Pre-K is in line with what many community-based nonprofits have been advocating for years. 

Thanks to these shifts, now could be an exciting time to begin a social-impact career. With so many social, educational, and health issues being addressed at the national level, there’s massive potential for partnerships between government and nonprofit organizations. Local nonprofits may be called upon for their expertise in working with their surrounding communities, understanding their needs and concerns, and delivering programs. 

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There are plenty of signs that the social-impact sector is on its way to recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Even if it takes a little longer to land the perfect job, you can explore the range of nonprofit career paths out there and take advantage of changes in how we work and how our work is valued. 

What excites you the most about a social-impact career at this moment in time? Let us know on Facebook!

Lakshmi Hutchinson

Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.

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