Les Echos is the French sister-newspaper of The Financial Times and France’s #1 business daily. This is translated from their article.
August 2007—The nonprofit sector attracts American employees more and more. At the time when synergies between private, for-profit sectors and nonprofit are reinforced in the United States, the professionals that make the jump discover that personal satisfaction and professional development generally go hand in hand.
FROM OUR CORRESPONDING TO SAN FRANCISCO.
Nikki Cicerani plunged. After two and a half years at Morgan Stanley in private banking, a graduate of Columbia Business School and former employee of Ernst & Young, she gave her resignation. An opportunity had finally been solidified, after four months of talk with Upwardly Global, a nonprofit organization located in San Francisco and specializing in employment research and career development for qualified immigrants. For three and a half months Nikki Cicerani has directed the New York team made up of nine full-time employees and tens of volunteers, which work mainly in Wall Street. “The work has presented many challenges and much satisfaction.” So much so that the drastic reduction of wages seems a reasonable price to be paid for the professional transition. “The energy that my current employment gives to me is worth all the wage compensations, including here, in New York, where the cost of living is particularly high,” affirms Nikki Cicerani.
If the growth of the nonprofit sector parallels that of the private sector, the reinforcement of synergies between the two is on the rise. Resource allocation by American companies with charitable organizations, in particular by the means of foundations, is an old practice. On the other hand, the systematic transfer of practices and competences of the commercial sector towards the nonprofit sector is an expanding phenomenon, adopted and propagated in Silicon Valley, in particular, by the initiatives of Salesforce foundation, of the Omidyar Network (created by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay) and the Google Foundation. The first devotes 1% of its benefits and time of its employees to the nonprofit sector. The last two invest at the same time in commercial entities and with nonprofit goal by subjecting them to the same set of criteria, evaluation, strategy, economic, social and, if necessary, environmental performance. Results of which are dismantling little by little the wall of China, which is traditionally drawn between the two sectors.
The importance of recruitment
“I learned in the private sector the importance of having the infrastructure, marketing and adequate human resources to achieve the specific goals,” declares Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot, a foundation located in San Francisco, which acts as a consultant for nonprofit organizations thanks to its some 3,200 volunteers coming from the private sector. “An organization must operate on this level of ambition if it wants to have the means to bring the changes to which it aspires. Good intentions are not enough. Recruitment, in particular, is critical, he adds to give “direction.”
In San Francisco, another famous American city with a high cost of living, the professional transitions towards the non-profit organizations are not limited to the young pensioners of the dot-com era who are without financial concerns. After having left a software firm to launch out on her own, Alethea Hannemann two months ago joined the score of employees of Taproot. “I lost 30% of my wages, but I gained an important piece of the puzzle of my professional life-purpose”, she declares. For many defectors like Alethea Hannemann, the desire to diversify her experiences and to improve her skills is also a strong element of motivation. Even if it means she has to share her time between the private and nonprofit sectors, thanks to arrangements, which benefit in particular the small organizations who are too small to justify full-time employment.
“With my nonprofit and pro bono work, I have more freedom to test new ideas and innovate. These experiences provide incredibly valuable learning opportunities,” affirms Jen Benz, former employee of the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates. Since becoming an independent consultant in marketing and communication, she devotes 20% of her activities to projects for nonprofit organizations.
Requirements as senior officers
This passion for the nonprofit risk nevertheless is not enough to provide the sector with the leaders, which it will need these next years. According to Thomas Tierney, the founder and director of Bridgespan Group, a division of Baine Consultants devoted to the nonprofit sector, the requirements as senior officers for the organizations with more than $250,000 of annual income will be multiplied by 2-4 over the next decade. “We have seen the leadership weaken, while at the same time the American society’s needs for services grow more and more,” affirms Thomas Tierney in his report/ratio. “The organizations will have to invest heavily in recruitment, to revalue their compensation and to target the retiring baby-boomers, the mothers who wish to start up again in community activity after a temporary leave from their careers and graduates who specialize in the nonprofit sector.”