Economy, job options prompt graduates to look to nonprofit field

By LIFT on April 24, 2012

Categories: Our Work


Recession may have prompted students to think more about ethical issues around nonprofit work

By David Britto, The Daily Pennsylvanian

Changes in the industry and the economy may be leading graduates to seek nonprofit jobs.

A report recently released by Nonprofit HR Solutions indicated that nonprofit companies are also creating more positions.

Last year, 43 percent of surveyed companies increased their staff sizes, a 26.5-percent increase from 2010, the report added.

While hiring prospects may currently be improving, the economy might also be prompting more students to consider nonprofit careers.

Dierdre McShea, a recruitment manager at Teach for America, felt that the difficult employment situation a few years ago may have caused “some students to think a little bit more freely about their career options and how they can make a difference.” Teach for America was the largest employer of Penn graduates last year.

David Grossman, the founding director of Penn’s Civic House, also felt that the recession may have prompted students to think more about ethical issues around nonprofit work.

“It’s out there in the ether more than it was, with discussions over inequality and corporate responsibility … it’s an extension of the social justice issues students may learn in high school,” he said.

Some feel that changes in the nonprofit industry may be also be driving the hiring rises.

Tim Ifill, executive director of Philly Fellows — a program that funds year-long fellowships for recent graduates to pursue nonprofit work — said nonprofits are becoming increasingly professionalized, which translates into offering more paid positions.

“Students understand that nonprofit doesn’t mean non-paid, and it certainly doesn’t mean a lack of opportunity,” he added.

Through his recruitment efforts at Penn and other schools in the region, he has seen increased interest from recent graduates in his organization and in the nonprofit sector.

While many nonprofit organizations may be expanding, Grossman felt that it may still be early to be optimistic about this trend.

He commented that the recession may have hit nonprofit firms secondarily, as sources of funding dry up when for-profit companies come under financial difficulties. Now, he added, nonprofit organizations may be lagging behind as levels of funding have yet to pick up.

“They’re quite keen to recruit, but they are not always able,” he said.

Josh Romalis, the regional executive director at LIFT-Philadelphia, felt that each nonprofit may have different experiences when recruiting. LIFT is a nonprofit organization staffed by Penn student volunteers that provides counseling services on financial and housing issues.

“Recruiting for us means expanding technology, space and personnel,” he said. “Increasingly our main constraint is personnel, so we are definitely looking to hire,” he added.

Kelly Cleary, senior associate director at Career Services, felt that Penn students are pursuing nonprofit work in more constant numbers compared to national trends.

Of the Class of 2011, 21 from the College of Arts and Sciences found nonprofit jobs, compared to 30 from the Class of 2010. This is based on Career Services surveys with 74 percent and 76.5 percent response rates, respectively.

While full data from the Nursing and Engineering Schools are unavailable, overall 3 percent of the class of 2011 pursued nonprofit work.

For some, it is the fulfillment rather than the career prospects that draw them to the industry.

College junior Mifta Chowdhury, a program evaluation intern for LIFT, is considering a nonprofit job upon graduation. He said, “Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and it has a somewhat therapeutic effect.”

Kelli Bosak, a site coordinator at LIFT-Philadelphia, felt that more students may want to use their college education outside of the classroom. Bosak graduated from the University of Michigan last year.

“I can see why this is very popular … for me, sitting in the library was frustrating, and I have the energy, skills, and knowledge to see what life is like from all angles and for everyone in this country,” she wrote in an email.

 

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