6 Tips for Transitioning into Non-profit

I’ve been exchanging ideas with a newly retired exec as he transitions into the volunteerism space. We seem to be aligned, adding to my working theory that there will be a huge number of folks like me with lots of biz skills available to be leveraged.

I have often blogged about non-profits needing to rethink their volunteerism models but we volunteers need to think different as well.

  1. Start lower and learn: Just because you had the corner office doesn’t mean you start there in this new space. It’s like changing careers or industries. You need to listen and learn first.
  2. Understand their language: Any industry has its own language and non-profits and even sectors within it, all speak a different language than you’re used to. Words have nuances and your biz terms might be totally foreign in this environment. You need to learn their language in order to be effective.
  3. Prove yourself: You have taken years or decades to get where you are in biz, why would you assume this power transfers directly into a space where you are unknown? Invest your time in getting to know the community. Your value will be recognized in time when it’s presented in context.
  4. Be a team player: this is not your biz and they are not your staff. Figure out how you can support their teams best.
  5. Understand their issues, goals, and constraints: Consider it a biz case. The elements will be familiar but the exact details are different.
  6. Set a new pace: double your expectation for the time it will take to be fully engaged. After all, what you have now is time – so use it to explore and let the answers surface.

You can find opportunities everywhere

You can start by harvesting your network for contacts. After that, I’d  just read the local paper and see what’s happening in your town. Once you’ve altered your focus you’ll be more attuned to the articles about causes and ads for events that support your new interests.


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