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From dot-com to nonprofit

  • I know with the recent economic downturn, many dot-coms have made huge layoffs or gone out of business altogether. How do nonprofits feel about hiring ex-dot-commers? Have many previous dot-com employees looked to the nonprofit sector for employment? How has the increase in job-hunters impacted the nonprofits?Best,Megan

    Megan Keane

    Follow me on Twitter: @penguinasana or connect with me on my website.

  • Well, I can answer from TechSoup's perspective. When I was hired, CompuMentor (TechSoup's mother organization) was having a very hard time finding employees with enough technical skills. Many of us had a very steep learning curve when we arrived. CompuMentor was sufferring from having wages which weren't competitive with the dot.coms. This has completely turned around. We are now wading through (literally) hundreds of resumes with people eager to work here, each time we post a vacancy. It is a dramatic turn of events. Even the lower paying, entry-level positions are receiving over-qualified candidates. I often wonder if people who have been working in nonprofit-tech positions for a while might not have those same positions, had they applied for those same jobs six months ago or now.<:LINEBREAK:>The competetion for these jobs is fierce now.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>At least it promotes more people to work in the nonprofit sector.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>-Susan

    Susan Tenby, Parernships, Online Community and Social Media Director, Caravan Studios, a division of

  • Hi. As a Manager in a Nonprofit, if we had an appropriate opening, I would be thrilled to hire a talented, enthusiastic former dot-commer! The big thing I wonder about is the salary difference. I fear that for the skill level our organization might require, we can only afford about a half to two-thirds what a for-profit salary in the same field might have been. Of course there are all sorts of non-monetary benefits to working in a nonprofit. I would love to here responses from anyone who has made this shift.<:LINEBREAK:>-Kristin
  • This is a great topic, Megan. I'm interested to hear what others have found to be their experience. I would imagine a nonprofit would be lucky to find and hire qualified dot-commers who believed in their mission enough to sacrifice some monetary compensation (which is usually the case) in exchange for other benefits (such as more flexibility or the satisfaction and fulfillment from helping others). It's good "warm and fuzzy" work!<:LINEBREAK:>-Laura
  • I think with so many people who have been hit by cut-backs now applying for non-profit positions the situation has the potential to be a "win-win" situation for both the hiring organization and the person who does get the position applied for. Since there are so many applicants, the organization can carefully review each one and more than likely not only find someone who wants (needs) to work, who is highly skilled *and* who truly takes the organizations mission to heart. When people really believe in and love the work they do, it's just human nature for them to give 110+% of themselves to that work. The prospective employee "wins" not only in finding a job to pay the bills but a job that gives that "warm fuzzy" feeling and imo, that's the best type job there is.
  • As a current employee in a technology company who wants to make the move into non-profits (not because of a job loss, but rather a real love for arts/arts education) I was thrilled to find this board and this topic. I am looking for advice on how to "break in" to non-profit work. I have a 7 year technology career as an analyst and manager. I have tried seeking out volunteer opportunities to learn but find it hard without hands on networking skills. Any advice on how to get started?
  • While tech skills are important, they are not really what drives non-profits to hire ex-dotcomer's.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>In the NP world, the buzzword is "fund raising". Show a organization how you can use technology (web designs, for example) to increase contributions and endowments, and you will quickly get their attention.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>I speak from experience. Once a financial consultant, I captured and managed more than $6 million in investment assets, primarily from professional associations and their members. Then, as an investor relations specialist, I created and managed promotional campaigns that raised more than $8 million from over 5,000 investors in funding several new companies. And that was just over a two year period!<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>That kind of background attracted attention, and led to some interesting work. I have authored dozens of commercial web sites and created all kinds of collateral materials, thanks in large part to Allaire Cold Fusion, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier, and Macromedia Flash. Some are remarkable for design and content. Some demonstrate sophisticated programming techniques. All are indicative of a very wide spectrum of skills.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>Of course, the real joy for me is not the programming per se, but seeing the results...more funds for an organization to continue their honorable work for their respective interests.
  • i just found techsoup yesterday and i must say, i'm impressed; kudos to the katz who made it possible.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>now, about the dot-com to nonprofit theme, i haven't moved billions of dollars around, but i have tried to help a bit. i had a slightly different twist than most as i wasn't exactly forced to go nonprofit for financial reasons. i was working for a dot com that crashed in december of 2000, and at that time there were still plenty of other jobs to grab. i was making $60k a year and could probably have stepped up in salary, but my conscience (and a few years of listening to ani difranco) had me trapped. i sat down one evening, looked in the mirror and said "what's it gonna be mark?" and after a long pause, i got up and searched the web for socially conscience organizations. that was the best thing i've done for myself since i got a new pair of doc martins and threw away those 7 year old hiking boots;)<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>seriously, though, that led me to start consulting and building web sites for nonprofits, it inspired me to help a friend establish her own 501c(3) youth center, and currently has me teaching computer classes to people who would otherwise never be able to afford them. it just pays in the right ways! (e.g. healthy pride, warm heart, etc)<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>anyhow, if anyone knows of a good nonprofit in need of a systems administrator/teacher/graphic-print-web designer, please let me know. (in or around downtown LA please!) i'm trying to cut the 55 mile a day commute out of my work scenario as i think it's hurting the environment, not to mention my stress valves;)<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>king of the socal freeways,<:LINEBREAK:>mark gladden
    Mark Gladden 510 612 1646
  • Dear Mark:<:LINEBREAK:>Thanks for sharing your experience with us. We have one job listed on the NonprofitOyster website that might be a good match -- check it out by conducting an advanced search on CA and inserting "Los Angeles" as the keyword. The job is for a Web Editor, so there's writing involved, and are you bi-lingual? I think that's another qualification. Anyway, I'll keep my eyes open and will ask a consultant friend of mine if she has any leads (she recently began working with nonprofits in LA).<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>It's good to know that Ani Difranco has such a positive impact on nonprofit employment. I saw her perform live about 8 or 9 years ago in Alexandria, VA before I knew anything about her. It was quite cool -- what energy!<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>Best wishes,<:LINEBREAK:>Laura Pruteanu
  • I would just like to relay my experiences concerning dot-com/non-profit. I have worked with adults/youth with disabilties for about 10 years in educational programs, research/grant projects, and in non-profits.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>A few years back, I wanted to build a portal web-site that catered to the needs of the disability community on a local, state, and national level. Something similar to and others (my model was FAR superior! :)). I left my job at a non-profit to pursue this effort, however it failed for reasons we all know about. However, the positive aspect of this is that I learned a great deal and came up with a new idea concerning the Digital Divide within the disability community. I contacted the local Center for Independent Living here in the Twin Cities and I spoke with the Exec. Director about an idea I had that would advance the mission and offerings of the organization as well as meet a real need within the disability community. I called it the Technology Lab Project (I have mentioned it this MB some time back)and the Exec. Director was excited about the potential of it and we started working on it. I started writing a grant (on my own time) and a position within the organzation came up and I have been here ever since. I continue to work on the project and have a local Foundation coming in a few weeks for a site-visit. My fingers are crossed! This would be my first grant. I couldn't ask for a better situation for myself, even though the pay right now is not good. However, once we land the grant, I have myself in for a nice salary! Nothing dot-comish, but still a nice salary.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>But the biggest benefit of this is that the experience that I get from this will help me get into a good PhD program and serve me well career-wise. Not only that, but having the satisfaction of helping people learn how to use technology to promote success at school, work, home, and in the community is something I value. Currently, we have a contract with the local Veteran's Administration to train vets with disabiltiies basic computing skills that will enable them to achieve thier individualized goals. I create curriculums based on thier needs and we go through the training. The guys are all very excited and they can't wait to be able to surf, email, and use thier computers to better thier lives. Fun stuff!<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>I guess the point of my story is that in terms of a small non-profit, people have the opportunity to make a real difference, not only within the organization, but to the people it serves. Even though my dot-com idea failed, a great deal of good came from my failure.
  • Dear Taylor:<:LINEBREAK:>Thanks for sharing your personal experience with us. It's very nice to hear that you were able to pave your way with great intentions while enjoying what you do. Many could learn from your example...sometimes we simply need to make things happen in the nonprofit world. And, finding funding for salaries for meaningful projects and programs is one important aspect of that. It sounds as if you sold yourself on how you could offer value to the organization...the best way to land a solid position.<:LINEBREAK:>Thanks again,<:LINEBREAK:>Laura Pruteanu
  • hey, if you start hiring, I can do that level of salary, I can work full time but at home or on my other owrk, i am a full time technical support staff and I know am capable of most things, however, what is your requirement? what do you need, email me at
  • Hi guys. Thanks to all who have posted to this thread. It's been quite helpful for me.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>I'm a Senior at Brown University, about to graduate with a degree in Computer Science. Deciding whether or not to get a job with a tech company or finding a non-profit where I can use my tech skills is now the issue, since I'll be graduating in a few months. I have a few questions to pose to anyone out there with a keyboard:<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>* For anyone who has been in my situation in the past, how does one go about finding tech jobs in the non-profit world? I've been looking online a bit, but it seems that most of the jobs I've found need people to handle their web sites. I know that web sites are essential for non-profits, but I'd still like to see if I can find a non-profit where I will do programming and be challenged a little bit more. I've been told that I should look at larger nonprofits/foundations that might have more of a need for full-time programmers.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>* Could someone tell me roughly what the salaries for tech people are in the non-profit industry? I've been told that they're "much less", but I'd like to get a little bit more of an idea.<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>* Any other advice?<:LINEBREAK:><:LINEBREAK:>Thanks to all. I think this site is great!<:LINEBREAK:>Greg
  • Dear Greg:<:LINEBREAK:>To find tech jobs, you're certainly starting in the right place...right here in TechSoup's Career Corner. Browse the resources here and you'll be a step ahead of many. That said, you'll still need to find the right job. Look in local major metro newspapers, you're already looking online, subscribe to the lists mentioned in the resources here in the Career Corner, and network, network, network. The best thing you can do is make friends with local nonprofits, preferably larger ones. Call your local Association of Nonprofit Organizations (check with NCNA for your local office and visit their website to see if they have local job listings. Attend technology & nonprofits -related conferences to meet new people in the field. As far as programming in nonprofits goes, it won't be an easy job to find...I see few programmer positions posted. Again, I'd concentrate on larger nonprofits for this...smaller nonprofits probably don't have a programmer on staff. Salaries? This depends on so many things...the organizational size and budget, the complexity of the work they need, the additional responsibilities involved. Your best bet is simply to apply to positions and ask what they are offering. Compare that to the for-profit positions you look into.<:LINEBREAK:>If you're unabe to find your dream job in the nonprofit sector right away, consider working in a for-profit while volunteering for a nonprofit in whose mission you believe. Volunteerism can be extremely rewarding and might help you to network your way into that nonprofit dream job.<:LINEBREAK:>Best of luck!<:LINEBREAK:>Laura Pruteanu
  • Hi Greg, there are some great articles on the subject here on TechSoup such as Your Nonprofit Job Search

    and also some good resources like NonProfitTimes Salary Survey(2000)

    So make sure to go through the Articles and the Resource Lists thoroughly, there's tons of great stuff in there.

    - Sean