Efforts to bring more business know-how to nonprofit organizations have proliferated in recent years. Just the other day, I wrote about a new outfit in Texas, Executives in Action, that partners with senior executives who are either between jobs or retired to provide local nonprofits with the types of expertise and guidance they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
Now comes news that New York City’s Robin Hood Foundation will soon start training financial professionals to step into senior-level positions at nonprofit organizations.
There’s long been a distinction between how nonprofits operate and how the private sector does. But Robin Hood, which is the biggest funder of nonprofits across the city, thinks that line should become a little more blurred.
"The last few years, the high-profile financial problems of some high-profile nonprofits have highlighted the need for a competent financial person in these positions," said Deborah Miller Sakellarios, a senior management consultant at Robin Hood.
It’s all part of a program called LeaderLink, and Robin Hood is kicking in funds for a five-session training course for 15 students. A group called Commongood Careers is running the LeaderLink program and believes that nonprofit work could bring a sense of satisfaction otherwise lacking in the careers of financial portfolio and hedge fund managers.
The jobs will pay between $125,000 and $175,000, which will likely be a sizable salary cut from what execs are used to—but that’s not really the point. Financial professionals will have to kick in about $500 of their own money just to participate in the pilot program, which will also include some mentoring and job search matching too.
“The jobs require strategic thinking and the ability to translate financial information for different audiences for different purposes,” explained Commongood Careers’ CEO, Cassie Scarano.
This sounds like a mighty worthwhile effort to us, and if anyone can pull it off, it’s Robin Hood. This is a bit of a departure from the foundation’s other initiatives (poverty, early education, college success, disaster relief, and veterans), but it makes sense from a funder’s perspective. Funders hate to watch nonprofits struggle with the basics of finance and administration, especially when they're otherwise doing great work. Even worse is when mismanagement really derails a good organization.
The problem, though, is that finance is not exactly a top calling for the kind of people who go into the nonprofit sector. These folks are interested in, you know, saving the world—not studying spreadsheets. So it makes a lot of sense to lure more of the money types to nonprofits, especially since it's no secret that quite a few such professionals start to long for work that has greater meaning at some point in their careers.