Dislodged executives migrate to nonprofits

A mix of layoffs and a growing desire by many for meaningful work is creating a surge of interest in working for nonprofits.

The economic pinch is affecting nonprofits' ability to hire, too — for both better and worse.

Nearly one-third of metro Atlanta nonprofits have laid off workers in the first quarter of 2009, according to a survey by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

But hard times mean increased demand for services and new jobs at some, such as Consumer Credit Counseling Service. It hired 100 counselors to help prevent foreclosures and plans to hire 24 more who speak Spanish, said spokesman John McCosh.

Others are hiring fund-raisers to help mitigate sinking donations, said Joe Folan, who runs Opportunity Knocks, a job service of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. The center survey reported 60 percent of metro nonprofits saw giving decline in 2009.

A February seminar the center sponsored on switching careers from for-profit to nonprofit businesses attracted about 200 people. It was so successful the center plans another one in June.

"I was surprised at the senior level of attendees," Folan said.

Its Web site,opportunityknocks.org, which helps match people to nonprofit jobs around the U.S., is getting half a million more views a month than a year ago.

Ten years ago, applicants had more passion than they did MBAs or years of executive experience.

But as corporations shed jobs and the recession continues, job-loss refugees are considering nonprofits, where salaries have been lower. Some are switching because rough times have made them question corporate life.

The surge in applicants is a boon for nonprofits with jobs to fill.

Ellen McCarty, the former CEO of Atlanta's Jerusalem House, which helps homeless people who are HIV positive, said better-quality applicants have been migrating for several years. She hired a financial manager for Jerusalem House who has an MBA and Wall Street experience.

"In 1994 when I started [in nonprofit work] I would not have seen the person I just described," she said.

McCarty started McCarty & Co. to help nonprofits better organize and manage their affairs.

It is not just job loss driving the recent surge, she said. Many workers want work they feel good about.

Laura Butler Cordiero left her job as an architect five years ago. She took a lower-paying job with an environmental education group.

Now, she works as the development manager at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, raising money. She was frustrated by corporate life.

"I always wanted to make a positive impact on the world around me," the 31-year-old said. "Now, I feel good about what I do."