MYTH 5: THERE’S NO WAY “UP” IN A NONPROFIT CAREER.
Debunked: Nonprofits tend to offer young people more leadership opportunities than other sectors and there are internal career paths in larger nonprofits.
Idealist.org (http://www.idealist.org/ioc/learn/scc/Myths.pdf) expounds on the reality that opposes this myth: “In reality, the nonprofit sector provides many people with a lifetime of exciting work. Nonprofits also tend to offer young people more leadership opportunities than other sectors.”
And in the future there will be no shortage of leadership opportunities. In fact, the demand for leadership in the nonprofit sector is growing. According to a report by the Bridgespan Group, there is a “nonprofit leadership deficit”, caused by a large number of nonprofit executives and leaders retiring and a growing number of nonprofit organizations coming into existence and expanding the nonprofit sector. The Bridgespan Group estimates that the nonprofit sector will need to attract new senior managers—about 80,000 each year by 2016. (http://www.bridgespan.org/learningcenter/resourcedetail.aspx?id=946)
For students exploring nonprofit work as a career, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs offers graduates this brief summary on what to expect of nonprofit career paths: “Following the entry level, one may assume positions of increasing responsibility in functional areas, program or service delivery, and/or general management. Primary job functions can include working with a Board of Directors, public and community groups, fundraising, media, clients and other nonprofit organizations. Career advancement depends on the size and mission of each nonprofit, as well as your dedication to the organization.” Columbia notes finally that likely career outcomes include positions such as Senior Executive Director, Program Manager, Government Affairs, or equivalent positions in the private and public sectors.http://sipa.columbia.edu/resources_services/career_services/current_students/career_resources/opportunities/CareerOpp_Nonprofit_Management.pdf
Finally, college students and recent graduates themselves have started and led successful nonprofit organizations. A few famous examples include Nancy Lublin (http://www.dressforsuccess.org/whoweare_founder.aspx), who founded the national nonprofit Dress for Success while in law school and who is now the CEO of the national nonprofit DoSomething, and Wendy Copp (http://www.teachforamerica.org/about/our_team.htm#wendy_kopp), founder of Teach for America who proposed the idea for the organization in her undergraduate thesis.