So you want to work for a nonprofit?

How to find a job that lets you give back to the community, and what to expect when you get one. Plus, how many sick days should your employer allow?

By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer

(Fortune) -- Dear Annie: After almost 30 years working in finance and administration (for three big companies and one startup), I'd like to make a radical career change. During my entire adult life so far, I've been active with a couple of volunteer organizations, and on the board of one of them, and I'm wondering how practical it might be to think about working full time for a nonprofit.

Assuming there are charities that could use my business skills, how do I start job hunting? Are there recruiters who specialize in nonprofits? Will I have to take a huge pay cut? -Ready and Willing

Dear Ready: You've got plenty of company. The nonprofit workforce now makes up 10.5% of U.S. jobs, according to a study by the Nonprofit Employment Data Project at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Between 2002 and 2004, the latest years for which figures are available, nonprofit job growth outpaced that of the private sector in 46 out of 50 states, generating 5.3% more new jobs while job creation in the private sector fell by 0.2%.

The result, says Lester Salamon, who directed the study, is that "American charities boast a larger workforce than the utility, wholesale trade, and construction industries combined."

There's no question that many nonprofits could use your finance and administrative savvy.

"I always put resumes with an MBA or business experience ahead of those with strictly not-for-profit experience," says Josh Ruxin, a former management consultant who now directs Columbia University's Access Project, which works in 25 community health-care centers across Rwanda to improve health care for the desperately poor. "With the advent of enormous new sources of funding, operational talent is increasingly what is most needed." He adds: "In order to create sustainable change, ideals alone are inadequate. You need business smarts and experience."

Of course, you don't have to move to Africa to make a difference. Here at home, check out Professionals for Nonprofits (, a recruiting firm in New York City and Washington, D.C., that helps charities find temps, consultants, and full-time permanent managers.

"One of the trends we're seeing of late is more and more middle-management professionals exploring opportunities at nonprofits," says Rick Bressler, PNP's head of business development. "Salaries have become more competitive recently, and nonprofits are very open to bringing in people from the for-profit world who can share new ideas."

PNP's Web site includes nonprofit job listings and - to figure out how big a pay cut you'll have to swallow - a handy salary calculator that gives pay ranges for different types of positions at various kinds of nonprofits. The chief operating officer of a Washington, D.C., charity with a $5 million to 10 million operating budget, for instance, earns on average $120,000 to $130,000 a year, the survey says. A director of finance for a nonprofit with a budget of $10 million to 20 million can pull down from $100,000 to $110,000.

Money aside, be prepared for a challenging ride. Advises Josh Ruxin: "Expect both exhilaration and frustration." Of his own experience in Rwanda, he says: "It's enormously gratifying to be addressing such pressing human needs, but frustrating to be working with so little infrastructure in place."

Dear Annie: Please settle an argument. My company allows only six paid sick days per year, which I think is pretty stingy. (My whole family had the flu last month, so I've already used up five days.) My supervisor says this is no worse than what most other companies offer and I am being unreasonable to complain. Is he right? -Coughing in Cleveland

Dear Coughing: No - at least not according to a recent poll of 5,300 employers by Compdata Surveys (, which found that U.S. salaried employees get an average of 8.4 sick days, while hourly workers get 7.6.

Sick-day policies vary by region, with employees in the West getting the fewest at 7.6 (still 1.6 more days than you're allowed, however). Too bad you don't work for the government: Public servants are permitted the most days off for illness, at 11.8.

It's unlikely that griping to your supervisor will change company policy, but you might pass along this tidbit from the Compdata study: "The Centers for Disease Control report healthy adults are infectious one day before showing symptoms of the flu and five days after getting sick. The CDC suggests those who are sick stay home from prevent the spread of disease."

Are you thinking of starting a business? Got a question about financing, technology, taxes, team management, or any other topic related to launching or owning your own firm? Ask the editors of Fortune Small Business, and they'll help you get answers from the appropriate experts.

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