Nonprofit Associations

Maybe you have second thoughts about devoting your career and your entire life to extolling the virtues of such products as breakfast cereal, athletic shoes, or solar flashlights. Perhaps more socially meaningful marketing jobs exist in the nonprofit sector, and these positions are typically not as high-octane or stressful as their counterparts in profit-oriented enterprises. On the downside, you might not be able to change the world right away.

Nonprofit organizations account for 20 percent of the economic activity in the nation, and exist to promote social causes, support education and the arts, or operate within religious, public health, and environmental organizations. The latest trends toward "social entrepreneurialism" and "venture philanthropy" focus on funds that invest in specific kinds of projects, and these will likely be the targets of your marketing efforts.

Many of the marketing-related jobs in the nonprofit sector require grant writing. To learn something about grant writing, either read a book or take a course. Lots of good resource books are available on and an online course is offered through You will quickly discover that grant writing is a convoluted and involved process, filling huge binders and entire file drawers with voluminous paperwork as part of the application process, with some serious follow-up work after the grant has been awarded. Cashing the check is maybe the midway point of a lengthy and-if you're lucky-ongoing process.

Volunteering at the nonprofit organization of your choice is another excellent starting point, and will likely draw you into the event planning and staging aspect of the marketing function. Or you may be called on to develop and/or maintain a database of sponsors, donors, members or contributors to receive the organization's mailings and/or newsletters.

Hospitals and institutions of higher learning are always recruiting for volunteers, especially in these days of slashed government funding and deep internal budget cuts. Also check with your local YMCA or YWCA to see if they need brochures or other promotional materials, and be sure to put your name in the fine print at the bottom of any piece you create.

The experience you gain will certainly look very nice on your resume but please keep in mind that, unfortunately, it oftentimes fails to impress the hiring decision makers in the for-profit sector. None of the many available nonprofit marketing jobs are likely to make you rich-not even eventually.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014