You don’t hear many stories of people putting in 25 years at a nonprofit and suddenly giving it all up to go become an exec at a Fortune 500 company. No doubt it has happened at some point, but generally it works the other way: people become disillusioned by the cutthroat nature of corporate America and seek out a job where they can do fulfilling work in a more relaxed or scenic environment. In our opinion, these 10 nonprofit organizations offer your best chance to love what you do.
The goal of this nonprofit is to harness the energy and creativity of teenagers for effecting social change. National campaigns are launched nearly every week to tackle issues like bullying, homelessness, and discrimination. DoSomething’s CEO and self-titled “Chief Old Person” Nancy Lublin (graduate of Brown University in Providence, RI) seems to be a kid at heart and the source of the company’s fun work environment. Her leadership style involves “having a blast” and “limiting volunteer rules to, like, one.” Getting teens to find something fun can be a challenge, but the organization’s multi-billion dollar budget and celebrity support mean they must be doing something right.
If you want to take your support for people with cancer further than wearing a yellow wristband, LiveStrong is an excellent place to work. Headquartered in Austin — the liberal, weird, scenic home of the Texas Longhorns — the company lives by the philosophy that “unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything.” The work atmosphere is one of teamwork and devotion to improving people’ health, including that of the employees. Hours are flexible to allow staff members to, for example, train for marathons, and employees have access to a massive fitness center complete with yoga, massage, sports conditioning classes, and (of course) bikes available for borrowing.
Year Up is a group that seeks to equip young adults in urban areas with marketable job skills to help them succeed in school and work. The extensive array of entry-level jobs here makes it easy to start a career in the nonprofit field. Interns and other employees attest that work at Year Up is as challenging as it is rewarding. As the entire point of the organization is to build people up, the staff is very encouraging, talented, and tight-knit. The tone is set by founder and CEO Gerald Chertavian (born in MA), who has worked with urban youth for more than 25 years.
WWP helps military members readjust to society through programs like Combat Stress Recovery, Warriors to Workforce Transition, and Soldier Ride. The organization recently took top honors as The NonProfit Times‘ best nonprofit to work for. Navigate to the “Cool Careers” tab on its website and you’ll see why. The group operates under the core values of fun, integrity, loyalty, innovation, and service. WWP was born when a group of friends decided to visit hospitalized vets injured in Afghanistan to thank them for their service and give them backpacks full of supplies. That spirit of service and gratitude still runs through the company and its employees today.
The instructors at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming would probably do their jobs for free. There are 500 of these outdoors lovers whose job it is to take students of all ages into the remote wilderness to teach them leadership, ethics, and outdoor skills. A typical class might involve them hiking the Wind Rivers Range of Wyoming or trekking through the jungles of the Amazon. Everyone who works here, from top management down, has a passionate love of nature and teaching others about the environment. As one instructor puts working for NOLS, “I’m getting paid to walk around pristine wilderness for 30 days with an engaging group of young people. I love it.”
Anyone who wants to make an impact on the crisis of public education should check out this nonprofit group that works with parents and educators to help them aid kids’ mental development from an early age. As proponents of family involvement in children’s education, Parents as Teachers is a great place to work because of the flexible work hours offered and the emphasis on allowing employees a healthy work-life balance. And, like most people involved in education, staff members don’t do it for the money, but rather an earnest desire to help every child reach his or her full potential.
For the opportunity to work with dedicated defenders of the environment at the most effective environmental protection group in the country, NRDC is the place to be. The group is proud to say almost 50 of its employees have been on board for more than 15 years. Employees praise the integrity and commitment of their co-workers, as well as the freedom and support provided by management to succeed. With green offices in San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL, Beijing, and elsewhere, plus a generous benefits package, the NRDC makes protecting the earth a rewarding experience.
Almost 1 million kids have gotten real-world learning in the great outdoors thanks to NatureBridge. Like NOLS for kids, NatureBridge employs passionate, seasoned educators to take students out into nature and educate them about the environment. In addition to the obvious opportunities to travel to beautiful locales, the organization offers teachers flexibility and freedom, as well as a chance to work with communities to promote environmental stewardship and green living. The organization’s core values include “bringing their best” to every task, building open and honest relationships among employees, and holding each other accountable.
This nonprofit — one of the most well-known in the country — is also a terrific place to spend your nine-to-five. Although the foundation has offices all over the country, the overwhelming sense of satisfaction employees get from helping a child make a wish is consistent among them all. Employees also appreciate the fact that “no two days are the same” and the kids and families they are helping inspire them to keep going, even when the work gets hard. It’s an especially beneficial place for young workers to get real experience and knowledge of life in a nonprofit career.
Work with this nonprofit involves working with kids in a variety of areas, from education to recreation to the arts, to start them on the path to being responsible citizens. People who love kids find kindred spirits in their co-workers, who enjoy the chance to make a lasting difference in kids’ lives while maintaining a level of freedom to develop programs in a fun environment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the pay is good and the benefits are better-than-average.