Joining Non-Profits: Tips

Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Deepa Iyer, former Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, SAALT: That’s very interesting. You mentioned at the outset your experience regarding taking risks and detours in your career. You mentioned a very diverse skill set.

Do you have any guidance that you’d like to share with our listeners who are contemplating making a move or taking a risk and detour in their career?



Deepa Iyer

Joining Non-Profits: Life Detours

Yes. I’m a big believer in taking those detours in your professional journey.

I think it’s important because it can take us out of our comfort zone and allow us to develop different types of skills, going beyond our blind spots, as I was talking about earlier with my own experience.

It can really open us up to meeting people such as mentors and colleagues that we may not have otherwise.

I think that if there is a possibility to take a detour, whether it’s a short one or long one like mine was, it’s important to challenge ourselves to do that.


Joining Non-Profits: Choose Purpose

I have a couple of thoughts around people who are interested in working at non-profits.

For those who are thinking about working in the non-profit sector or making a switch to the non-profit sector, there are two pieces that I would point out to thrive.

One is to understand and find your purpose or calling.


Joining Non-Profits: Beyond Me Sector

Non-profits, in many ways, are part of the “beyond me” sector.

It is the sector where there is some sort of service that you might be providing or you’re trying to change the status quo. You’re trying to change a system.

It’s very community and people centered. That’s why I call it “beyond me.”

It’s a growing sector in our country in terms of the number of people that it employs.

There are about 2.5 million non-profits on the country today. It is employing more people than business or government since 2008. These are some facts from the 8


Joining Non-Profits: What Is Your Calling

I get a lot of young people asking me, “How do I get into the non-profit sector?”

One response that I always say is, “What’s your purpose? What’s your calling?” That’s usually connected to your values, your own experiences and what stirs up a fire inside your belly.

What gets you excited? What are you ready to burn the midnight oil for?


Joining Non-Profits: Personal Story

For me, I grew up as an immigrant. I moved to Kentucky when I was 12.

Those experiences of feeling, oftentimes, as an outsider, on the margins and not in the mainstream, even though I couldn’t really articulate it until I got older, those experiences really shaped my connection to community and led me to understand my purpose, which is to make sure that immigrants and people of color have equity and equality in this country.

I think that finding that purpose and calling is important. You might not be able to articulate it in an elevator speech, but learning to understand the contours are very important.


Joining Non-Profits: Flexiblity

The second piece of advice for those interested in thriving at non-profits is making sure that your work style really is connected to the culture of the non-profit sector.

I’ve employed and supervised a lot of people in my tenure in the non-profit sector.

I found that the people who thrive are the ones who tend to be very adaptable and very flexible.

They are people who can go with the flow and shift when priorities, deadlines and needs shift at the non-profit.

They are people who are okay with being in an environment that is often under-resourced.

You’re ready to make your own copies. I think that having that sort of work style is a really good fit for the non-profit culture.


Tell Us:

Calling all non-profit employees! Do you have any additional tips for people interested in joining non-profits? Share those tips with us below in the comments section.


The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Deepa Iyer

The entire interview transcript is at: Deepa Iyer NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Interview – Leading & Working at Non-Profits

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

Listen to the entire interview on Blog Talk Radio: NetIP Spotlight- Live Your Potential: Leading & Working at Nonprofits

Listen to the entire interview on iTunes