Mentoring Staff New to Nonprofit Work

posted by
Sheryl Keeme,
Executive Director,

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Have you ever been asked what you do for a living and when you responded, the person reacted as though you were Mother Teresa? Some believe that nonprofit work is more of a calling than a career, but when one considers that this ‘calling’ is responsible for literally billions of dollars changing hands each year in our own country alone, it’s a calling of high importance. Not to mention one in which the skills set must be honed and finely tuned.

It’s rare to learn of someone who entered a nonprofit career having always known that this is what they were born to do. But, when considering helping young graduates transition to a career in nonprofit or even helping a mid-career professional make the leap from a for-profit vocation to one in the nonprofit sector, there are a few basics to keep in mind when mentoring a new nonprofit worker.

Encourage the employee to spend a few days doing information "downloads" from fellow staff members or if it’s a smaller nonprofit, from key volunteer leadership. Meeting with the people who have been active in the areas in which the worker will be assigned is invaluable. Urge them to become a listener and learner at first, rather than a talker. Have them prepare a list of contacts throughout these discussions that they should spend time reaching out to via telephone or, at times, in person, to acquaint themselves with these key people.