Nonprofit Headhunters in NY?
April 23, 2013 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Wanted: Names of headhunters that place communications professionals in nonprofit jobs in NYC, plus advice. Got any?

I asked a question about finding a Content Strategy position (in a digital marketing agency) here a month or so ago, and got excellent advice. Among other things I was counseled to put together an online portfolio, which I've been avidly doing. And I'm just about ready to send some resumes out ... but I'm wondering whether I shouldn't weigh the pros and cons of working for a straight-out nonprofit at the same time.

I've got more than a dozen years of editorial experience (books) and 2 1/2 years working exclusively for nonprofits. In my nonprofit role, I've primarily worked with Web content, research/discovery, content organization, usability, navigation, and mock-ups hence the content strategy angle.

But I've also been working with design, video, social media blogging, and the creation of newsletters, press kits, fundraising kits, and the like.

My current title is Senior Content & Communications Strategist, so I'm straddling both worlds. And the key to my interests is I'm very much a Jill-of-all-trades, and happily so, with an overall focus that encompasses communications in all its forms. And, in some ways, it strikes me this skillset would be most useful to a nonprofit. Thoughts?

Okay, so my questions are:
  1. Is this enough nonprofit experience to get me a communications job for a nonprofit?
  2. If so, what kind of title/level would I be looking at?
  3. How much would such positions pay?
  4. Finally, do you have any recommendations for NYC nonprofit placement agents or agencies?
Many thanks!
posted by Violet Blue to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most headhunters are paid to find and place applicants. So nonprofits will probably NOT use one. Sure a very large nonprofit may hire an executive search firm, but it would be for the most executive positions.

Non profits have board members, so first the job is disclosed to those folks, who will all have a person in mind to recommend. Then they may post it some place on line. Depending on how savvy the HR person at the nonprofit is, that job may end up on a good jobsite, or a crappy one that no one will ever see.

Then there will be dithering. Then they'll hire the person who's been freelancing for them.

Nonprofits typically pay 40% under the prevailing rate for the same professionals, and their benefits will be thin.

So....exactly why do you want to work for a nonprofit if you don't have a specific one in mind?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:24 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for answering.

My thinking was that—as I generally understand it—most businesses in NY use headhunters because they can't handle the size of the response independently. Also most nonprofit headquarters are often in NY, and headquarters tend to be more monied ... I'd think.

I've worked for nonprofits relating to children, education, and workforce development, and I've really enjoyed all of them, eventually becoming enamoured with each of their missions. So I've got preferences, but I'm not necessarily stuck on a single nonprofit organization.

Finally, I do a lot of writing, and nonprofits by nature tend to have more in-depth content than commercial ventures (very broadly speaking, of course), all of which is another draw.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:48 AM on April 23, 2013

I recommend that you go online and start looking at jobs that match your skillset.

Linkedin, and Simply Hired are good places to start. See who's hiring.

Start interviewing both for nonprofit and for corporate jobs. I see no reason to cut yourself off from a job without fully exploring all of your options. You may LOVE a corporate job because it will grow and change over time and because corporations have more money to invest in helping you further develop your skills.

Also, check out government jobs. Children, Education and workforce development are all the purview of the city, state and federal government. Government doesn't pay as well as private sector, but the benefits tend to be better.

If you want to know what things pay, go to

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:00 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Careers In NonProfits occasionally has something in New York. Also, might have something for you.

Nonprofit communications is my line of work too, though I am in Chicago. My network has been the strongest source of leads when I have been searching, way more than any of the online forums, but it is worth checking them out as a place to start and then going through the mental Rolodex (or LinkedIn) to see who you know there.

Good luck!
posted by deliciae at 9:28 AM on April 23, 2013

It really depends on the nonprofit. Ruthless Bunny's first post is often (though not always) true of small nonprofits, but I've worked for several larger NPOs and the hiring process is very different.

For instance, the process at my (large) NPO is completely different (incidentally, I work in digital comms for them). It's a much more standard corporate process, where job descriptions go through HR and listings are posted widely. The board has nothing to do with it - they're more involved with larger strategy and fiscal oversight. Of course, the person hiring will try to find someone through their networks, but my department has gone through several rounds of hiring over the last few years and I'd say only about 10-15% of hires came from personal networks. We're actually not even allowed to hire people who were contractors for us in the past year. And we have amazing benefits!

I'm saying all this just to say that the NPO world is as diverse as the for-profit world. Speaking as someone who works in digital comms for a NPO, you're going to find two different kinds of jobs, broadly speaking: jill-of-all-trades jobs in small NPOs, where your resume will be extremely valuable; and (mostly) entry-to-mid-level digital roles. There are a TON of these types of roles in nonprofits, but not a whole lot of more senior positions, which are difficult to get without management-level experience (do you have that?).

It sounds like, from your previous question, you're not currently in NYC but are hoping to move. Your best bet is probably to go for one of those common jobs and use one of those as a springboard to something higher level in 2 or 3 years, after you've developed a network. You shouldn't have (more than the normal amount of) trouble finding one of these jobs with your experience.
posted by lunasol at 9:31 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in a very similar place to you professionally, especially in terms of skills and interests, although I don't live in NYC. Maybe things operate differently in NYC, but I doubt that they're significantly different. This is long, but I've learned a lot over the last year or so in doing a similar job search.

Ruthless Bunny is right, nonprofits don't use headhunters and recruiters. In every city I've lived and worked in, the nonprofit community is very tight-knit and they don't need to go out and find applicants for openings. They have a surplus of people applying and know colleagues and friends of friends who would be good for the job and come with referrals, so they don't need to pay someone to bring them prospects. Executive jobs are the exception but these are often filled by informal networking too.

If you want to work with a nonprofit, you're better off to spend your time networking in the community, doing informational interviews, and letting people know that you're interested in a nonprofit communications role. You might also do a few pro bono projects for local nonprofits so that they get to know you and so you can generate NPO material for your portfolio.

Nonprofits fall into three categories w/r/t communication. 1) The big nonprofits that are just as slick as any for-profit corporation and know good comm is important and invest a lot of money in it. 2) The nonprofits that want to be doing better but can't afford to pay anyone full-time. 3) The organizations that think that the receptionist can double as a comm person or don't think they need a comm person because program staff can update the website. It's not really true that nonprofits have more in-depth communications than for-profit companies. Often they're just scraping by because they're investing their money in programs and fundraising to get more money.

Pure "communications" jobs in nonprofits are honestly pretty few and far between and they're often filled by people who are in them for a looong time because they're such good gigs. You might start looking at development and fundraising instead because this is a growing part of the nonprofit sector. It involves a lot of the same skillset: writing, content strategy, testing, and analytics are a huge part of what a good fundraising professional does. It's also easier to get in at the ground floor for these types of positions as organizations build out their development staff.

It looks like from your previous question that you're not yet living in NYC. It's going to be nearly impossible to find any kind of job not living in the city yet, especially a nonprofit job. Interviewing applicants is a time-consuming and costly process and companies really don't want to go through it only to have someone be unable to move when the time comes. Keep trying, you might get lucky, but also keep in mind that no one will pay for you to relocate for the kind of communications and content strategy roles you're looking for. You probably need to be living and networking in the city to have any success.

It seems like you're going about your job search kind of scattershot, which I totally get. You have a skill set that could be applicable in a lot of different kinds of positions and you have a lot of different interests. The problem is that employers have become sooo picky that they want someone who is the exact right fit. In my experience, the days of getting hired for your potential are gone because it's just so competitive.

Nonprofits especially want to hire someone who's really passionate about what they do because feeling gratified about advancing the cause is a big part of the compensation package (read: they hope you'll love what you're doing so much you won't mind the smaller paycheck). They also want people who will be loyal to the organization. Many of them want to see past job experience and volunteer work in their service area. So you might do better to pick an area of interest and start volunteering and doing pro bono work within it.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 9:32 AM on April 23, 2013

Oh and, yes, Idealist is the place to start for NPO jobs. The Foundation Center also has good listings. And since you work in digital, you should check out the New Organizing Institute's job google group.
posted by lunasol at 9:34 AM on April 23, 2013

There's a group called "Professionals for NonProfits" (google it). Other than that, I have to agree with the idealist recommendation.
posted by NYC-BB at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2013

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