Finding the Right Role within a Nonprofit

Students often say they are interested in working in the nonprofit sector but may question what their specific role would be within a nonprofit. There are many ways to consider what might be a good fit for you within a nonprofit organization. It’s also important to consider that your role or position title can mean something very different depending on the specific nonprofit you are working for, i.e. smaller nonprofit organizations (in size or budget) tend to have positions where you will wear many hats whereas the larger organizations have more established roles with defined structure.

I find it helpful to think of the various buckets listed below when considering roles within a nonprofit. You can also look at these categories and break them down into external facing  and internal facing roles – those that will be interacting with the public (clients, donors, press)  vs. those that allow the organization to run on a daily basis (IT, HR, Accounting).

  • Programs & Service Roles – include Project Managers, Program Coordinators, Program Associates
  • Fundraising & Development Roles – Grant Writers, Event Coordinators, Donor Relations Managers, Major Gifts Coordinators, Planned Giving Managers
  • Communications Roles – Social Media Coordinators, Marketing Coordinators, Graphic Designers, PR Associates
  • Administration Roles (HR, Finance, & IT) – Recruiters, Human Resource Managers, IT Managers, Office Managers or Coordinators
  • Senior Management Roles – include Executive Directors, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Culture Officers

The following links may also be helpful to get a better idea of what might be a good fit:

Nonprofit Job Description Toolkit – allows you to read sample job descriptions across various functions

Self-Exploration :The First Step in the Job Search – asks questions to gain clarity in your job search

This is Your Most Important Decision – 80,000 hours has a career planning guide that helps one examine the impact areas they are most drawn to

A List of Nonprofit Roles & Responsibilities

Another great way to enter a nonprofit is through Post-Graduate Fellowships. Yale’s Common Good & Creative Careers Team has compiled over 10 different category lists of post graduate fellowships.

By Robyn Acampora
Robyn Acampora Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Service Careers Robyn Acampora