Nonprofit Work – Find a Match Between Your Interests and Passions!

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), nonprofit organizations employ 12 million people nation-wide, which is the equivalent to approximately 9% of the U.S. workforce!  Due to an incredible range of organizations, missions, jobs and responsibilities, there are many ways for students across all majors to have a meaningful career in the nonprofit sector.  Just as there are direct service roles like social workers and teachers, nonprofit organizations also need accountants, human resources specialists, engineers, IT professionals, fundraising and event planners, lobbyists, health care professionals and so many more!        

To find out more about this exciting field attend our upcoming Careers in Nonprofits Panel on Wednesday, 3/24 from 3 – 5pm inside the Student Union and learn from local nonprofit professionals what nonprofit work is all about!  As a preview to this event, please check out the below career testimonial from one of our participating panelists – Gwendy Donaker Brown, a Program Director from Opportunity Fund here in San Jose.      

What is unique about nonprofit work?      

Gwendy:  What I love about nonprofit work is that it’s the best of both worlds – mission and focus of the public sector with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the business world, without the bureaucracy of government.  Knowing that you are making a difference in peoples’ lives is a much better way to wake up in the morning versus focusing on the bottom line.      


What is the most rewarding part about your work?      

Gwendy: At Opportunity Fund, I manage one of the nation’s largest matched savings program and I work with 600 families at any given time to help them manage their money and then match their savings with grants.  What is most rewarding about my work is to help such wonderful people – I am inspired every day by their hard work and dedication.  I also enjoy working with such a smart team of people. I wear many different hats on any given day from managing a team who works directly with clients, overseeing the financial education process and instructors, working with funders, researching and developing programs, and evaluating our program data.      

What advice would you share with students who want to get their foot in the door       

Gwendy:  Volunteering and/or unpaid (or paid) internships are the best ways to get your foot in the door!  Spend at least 3 months in an organization even if it’s just 5 – 10 hours a week.  A longer period of time will allow you to learn more from the experience, contribute more to the organization, and will look more credible on a resume.      

Questions to consider in your job search – does the mission match your passions and interests?  And do the mission and services actually connect (i.e. do they accomplish what they set out to do)?  Do your research and use the web to read up on the mission and values of an organization and look at testimonials of clients.  When you meet people in an organization assess: are these people I want to work with, are they smart, are they dedicated, and are they passionate?  Don’t settle; find the right fit for you!      

To hear more career testimonials from other nonprofit professionals, watch’s Career Profile Videos      


Gwendy Donaker Brown is IDA Program Director at Opportunity Fund, a leading microfinance organization located in San Jose, CA. She holds a BA in Economics & Public Policy from Pomona College and an MPA in Nonprofit Management from New York University. Previously, Gwendy bridged the digital divide at One Economy Corporation, fought global warming at the California Climate Action Registry and studied sustainable development as a Fulbright Scholar in Caracas, Venezuela.     










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