Issue: June 2008
In This Issue:
You kind of know—or at least you think you do—the definition of a nonprofit. Basically, a nonprofit is a group that comes together to achieve some sort of mission, rather than to make a profit. We’re talking everything from arts, culture and education to the environment and civil rights. Nonprofit groups exist for every cause—and a few you’ve probably never heard of. New Jersey has a thriving nonprofit sector. According to the Center for Nonprofits in North Brunswick, the New Jersey nonprofit sector is comprised mostly of community-based groups launched through the passion and creativity of individual members. Between 1996 and 2005, in New Jersey the number of public charities grew by 69%. Today, the state has more than 28,000 charitable organizations.
Wow, that’s a lot of job potential. In fact, New Jersey nonprofits employ more than 288,000 workers—that’s more than 7% of the state’s workforce.
In an article on monster.com, contributing writer Susan Bryant talked with Russ Finkelstein, associate director of idealist.org, a site providing nonprofit and volunteer information on more than 29,000 organizations in 153 countries, about what it’s really like to work in the nonprofit sector. Here are a few nuggets of Finkelstein’s advice:
If you’re thinking of going to work for a nonprofit—and a lot of young people are feeling socially responsible these days—then you should explore what this very important force in the state and national economy is all about.
When Alison Daks graduated from Hightstown High School in 1990, like most of us she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She was pretty confident that she wanted to get her undergrad degree (from Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.) in sociology—but then what? A college internship helped her figure out that she wasn’t cut out for a career in political science—a path that many sociology majors take—and she wasn’t that passionate about advertising either, another popular career choice of her fellow “Soc” students. Then she took a family violence class as part of her degree requirements—and began to connect the dots to a clearer career profile. “That sparked an interest in me through some personal experiences,” recalls Alison, 36. “I had a friend who was in a violent relationship in high school. It made the point of what could have been done differently for her.”
That one spark ignited a lifetime pursuit. Alison went on to get her master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University in 2001 and to sign up for regular volunteer work and ultimately a counseling internship with Womanspace, a nonprofit organization in Mercer County that provides services to individuals and families that are impacted by domestic and sexual violence.
In 2002, Womanspace hired Alison as full-time coordinator of its sexual assault support services program. In addition to coordinating and mentoring a team of volunteers, Alison supports rape victims and their families in the hospital as well as when they give formal statements to the police. “I love the program that I work for and the work we do. I think it’s necessary,” says Alison. “I do think that the people who work for nonprofits tend to have a passion for their particular work. There are hundreds and hundreds of causes out there. If it’s something you’re thinking about, find out about volunteering with an agency that deals with the kind of work that interests you and seeing if it does feel like the right kind of fit. It can be heavy work. If it’s a good, supportive program there will be outlets in place for you to talk about the things that go on.”
Jesse Beyroutey, 19, has a theory. He believes that the reason why he and his peers are especially socially responsible these days—in other words, they genuinely want to help others and give back to society—is a function of the Internet. “People learn about things going on in the world around them and start giving due consideration to what they have to do professionally to be socially responsible,” he says. Jesse, a 2007 graduate of Manalapan High School, was always interested in using skills to help people but he didn’t know how to do that. That is, until now.
This May, after finishing up his freshman year of college in the University of Pennsylvania’s Management and Technology program, Jesse headed for Mexico City to offer free consulting to a local NGO or non-governmental organization known as The Hunger Project. Jesse is a member of PIBV, the Penn International Business Volunteers club, a campus-based group that uses its expertise in business to help organizations around the world in need of consulting services. Jesse and his PIBV team checked out marketing in the nonprofit sector and synthesized that into a strategy of how to fundraise for The Hunger Project. “We will help them refine their vision and marketing materials and formulate a message for potential investors,” he explains
Stay tuned to Career Fuel and NJ Next magazine to find out more about Jesse’s socially responsible summer.
Shennell Barnes, a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, decided after a 2006 trip to help Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans that she needed to raise community awareness about homelessness in Newark, her lifelong home. Shennell, along with her sister Sasha, a high school student at Newark’s North Star Academy, successfully orchestrated National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day on December 21, 2006 in the city of Newark.
Turns out, that was just the beginning. Shennell and Sasha applied for a grant from Youth Venture, a nonprofit that helps teams of people start youth-led organizations, to help them launch Through Future Eyes, a nonprofit that will hold an annual event each December to bring attention to homelessness in Newark. The sisters, who made a formal presentation to the Youth Venture grant application committee, won a $1,000 grant in the summer of 2007. “When we heard that we won the grant we just broke down and cried,” says Shennell. “We want to inevitably have a traveling exhibit. We want to give cameras out to youth that we form relationships with and we want them to take pictures of how they view their community. We want to put them together, a digital quilt if you will, that will prompt discussion globally about homelessness and poverty.”