Mendoza School of Business

MNA Nonprofit Roundtable: Discussing diverse career opportunities in the nonprofit industry

Published: April 28, 2010 / Author: Cynthia Brennan

“What are you going to do with that job?”

It’s a question that can come up often between aspirants to nonprofit careers and their loved ones.

During last month’s Third Annual Notre Dame Nonprofit Roundtable, members of the nonprofit community and area college students had the opportunity to learn how to effectively answer this question as well as discover the rich tools and opportunities that are available in the nonprofit sector. Students from the University of Notre Dame, Holy Cross College, Indiana University of South Bend (IUSB), and Saint Mary’s College were in attendance.

The Notre Dame Nonprofit Roundtable is an annual event co-sponsored by the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs within the Mendoza College of Business, created to showcase nonprofit career opportunities, define potential nonprofit career paths, and discuss employment trends in the nonprofit arena. The Roundtable was comprised of a panel discussion with area nonprofit luminaries, moderated by Marc Hardy, director of Nonprofit Executive Education
at the University of Notre Dame.

The question of how to explain the value of a nonprofit career was posed to Dr. Frances Shavers, chief of staff and special assistant to the President at Notre Dame, during her introduction on the panel. Shavers emphasized that the answer lies in the great value of nonprofit organizations, and the impact they have throughout all of a community.

“In periods of crisis, you can see what nonprofits do,” Shavers told the audience, “But even when there isn’t a crisis, nonprofits play a big role, as seen in institutions such as theatres and schools.”

According to a November 2006 report, South Bend NonProfits: Scope and Dimensions by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, “The nonprofit sector is particularly important
in the South Bend metropolitan region, accounting for more than 17 percent of total employment, or about one in six employees. This most likely reflects the presence of several large nonprofit health and educational institutions in [our] community.”

There is a great opportunity for area students and the nonprofit community to learn from each other.

Hardy added that the impact of nonprofits is significant even from a purely business standpoint, as it is estimated that 9-10 percent of the U.S. workforce is working for nonprofit organizations. And while the nonprofit sector is perceived as homogeneous, it is a very diverse and complex career environment.

This complexity is likely due to the many different paths nonprofit employees can take to arrive at their positions. When queried how she was influenced to reach her current position as executive director of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, Jane Hunter outlined that many nonprofit managers have come to their jobs either from a passion for the mission they are performing, a calling to that mission, or through a process of elimination that leads them to their best-fit career in nonprofits.

Another panelist, Hodge Patel, also highlighted another strong career path: that of internships. Patel, district director for Congressman Joe Donnelly, said that his personal path involved internships and making sure he differentiated himself through strong research in order to better market himself.

Hunter later added that another good tactic was flexibility, as she related an anecdote about fixing plumbing during her role as a symphonic director in Michigan years ago. This was but one example of the broad diversity found in the nonprofit sector that each of the panelists touched on during the session.

The mission of the Notre Dame MNA Program is to “develop exemplary leaders serving nonprofit organizations,” according to Thomas Harvey, the Luke McGuinness Director of Nonprofit Professional Development. The roundtable furthers the overall University mission, “to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”

For more information regarding future Nonprofit Roundtable events, contact the Mendoza College of Business at (574) 631-8488. 


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