Nonprofits and Philanthropy: A Guide to Work From Home Careers

The notion that making a difference in the world requires a boots-on-the-ground approach is only part of the story. While the people actively helping their communities or conducting field research are invaluable, so are the people getting the message out, forging relationships with donors, and ensuring the right resources go to the right place at the right time. Increasingly, these tasks can be done at home on a computer, contributing to a boom in philanthropic telecommuting jobs.

A work from home (WFH) revolution is taking place in virtually every economic sector, including nonprofit organizations. For workers, telecommuting saves money and improves work-life balance. Experts note the model is just as valuable to employers as it saves money and boosts productivity. So how can you take advantage of the telecommuting trend, yet still have a real and meaningful impact on the world?

Here are five careers in philanthropy ripe for home-based workers.

Five Work From Home Careers in Philanthropy

Become a Fundraising Strategist

Fundraising managers or strategists plan, coordinate, and direct campaigns to bring in donations to their organizations. They might also identify and connect with potential donors, set fundraising goals, plan events, and prepare or review fundraising materials. Some professionals even apply for organizational grants. While fundraising strategists can work across a variety of media and marketing, those who work from home often specialize in digital media, such as email or social media campaigns.

Education Requirements

Fundraising strategists usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in an area like communications, public relations, or nonprofit management. Some larger organizations require master’s degrees, especially for directorships. Some fundraising strategists invest in voluntary certification from Certifying Fund Raising Executives (CRFE), a process that requires at least five years of work experience and 80 hours of continuing education.

Sample Program: Online professional fundraising certificate, Boston University

Boston University’s CRFE-certified online professional fundraising certificate is a 12-week program designed and taught by senior philanthropy officers who impart the most current skills and knowledge necessary to work in what the institution calls an increasingly specialized philanthropic environment. Topics include prospect research, planned giving, corporations and foundations, management and accountability, technology-enabled fundraising, and volunteer leaderships, among others.

Salary & Career Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nonprofit organizations are increasingly trying to cultivate an online presence, which is boosting demand for fundraising strategists with email and social media campaigning expertise. The BLS projects openings for these professionals will grow by 10 percent between 2016 and 2026—higher than the national job growth average of 7 percent. Fundraising managers (including those in PR) earned a median annual wage of $111,280 in May 2017, though earnings tend to vary with experience and education. Some home-based financial strategists are contractors who do not work full-time.

Employer Spotlight: is a political action organization that hires telecommuting email fundraising strategists on a contract basis. These professionals work in teams to brainstorm and execute email campaigns to bring in donations. Excellent writing and marketing skills are critical.

Become an Auditor or Accountant

Like all businesses, nonprofits need a steady flow of income to operate. Unlike other businesses, this income is typically derived from a combination of large and small, institutional and individual donations, all of which are subject to special tax considerations. Auditors and accountants examine an organization’s financial record for accuracy and to ensure taxes are handled properly. They can also advise nonprofits on best fundraising practices. Today’s sophisticated accounting and auditing software and the boom in online giving makes it easier for professionals to work from home.

Education Requirements

Auditors and accountants typically need bachelor’s degrees in accounting or nonprofit management with a focus on accounting to enter the field. Students can expect to take courses in areas like the principles of accounting, internal auditing, business law, taxes and strategic planning. Special training in philanthropic accounting is not required, but helps in the recruitment process. In addition to the traditional Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, some experienced professionals with at least 18 months of experience opt to pursue the Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP) certification from the Nonprofit CPAs Alliance.

Sample Program: Online bachelor’s of science in accounting, Colorado State University

Students enrolled in this fully online program learn how to prepare, analyze, and confirm financial records and transactions for a wide breadth of businesses and clients, including nonprofit organizations. They also receive instruction in ethics, quantitative decision making, and leadership. The program offers many specializations that might be relevant to aspiring nonprofit workers such as public and nonprofit management.

Salary & Career Outlook

Today’s advanced and readily accessible accounting software has not undermined demand for auditors and accountants, notes the BLS, but rather emphasized their analytical and advisory roles. Positions for these professionals are expected to grow 10 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026. Accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $69,350 in 2017.

Employer Spotlight: Achievement Network

Achievement Network works with schools to improve student outcomes in underserved communities. Its remote director of finance and accounting position was created to ensure the organization’s financial sustainability as it continues to grow and expand its mission. This professional develops and manages financial strategies, but also trains budget managers and other accounting staff.

Become a Survey Researcher

Whether supporting a cause or informing operations, survey data is a nonprofit’s best friend. Survey researchers conduct background research, design appropriate surveys, and analyze and report the resulting data. In most cases, that requires a familiarity with popular statistical analysis and graphics software and techniques. Some survey researchers also organize and direct the teams that actively conduct the surveys.

Education Requirements

While a bachelor’s degree in survey research, statistics or social science is sometimes enough for entry-level survey researchers, prestigious organizations may require a master’s degree or doctorate. Courses in research methods, computer science, math and statistics are vital. Additional coursework in sociology, psychology and economics helps, especially in positions that analyze broader public attitudes and behaviors.

Featured Program: Online graduate certificate in survey research, University of Connecticut

This fully-online 12-credit graduate program prepares students to conduct quality survey research in any sector. Over the course of a year, students will complete one core requirement on the principles and methods of survey research, and then specialize the remainder of the training through a series of elective courses in areas like evaluating public programs, attitude formation and political polling. According to UConn’s official website, the online graduate certificate in survey research is ideal for seasoned professionals and applicants with relevant master’s degrees who want to transition to or bolster a career in survey research.

Salary & Career Outlook

According to the BLS, overall demand is expected to grow by 2 percent between 2016 and 2026. Survey researchers earned a median annual wage of $54,270 in May 2017.

Employer Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is perhaps one of the nation’s best known nonprofit organizations. Many people know that the group works to improve housing conditions for underserved communities, but few can appreciate just how much work goes into making that happen. Habitat for Humanity’s remote director of research and measurement ensures that the organization has the data it needs to better advocate for the people it serves. The position calls for research and surveying know-how.

Become a Grant Researcher and Writer

Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on donations to thrive, but that is only one key source of income. The other biggie: grants. Grant researchers and writers look for awards that correspond with their organizations’ missions and determine whether they are an appropriate fit. They must also submit complete and often highly technical applications that demonstrate thorough knowledge of the subject and/or proposed project.

Education Requirements

Grant researchers and writers are more or less specialized technical writers with a pinch of copywriting savvy. According to the BLS, most technical writers need a bachelor’s degree in an area like journalism, English or communications to enter the field. Some universities offer additional coursework or graduate certificates that focus on grant and nonprofit writing. Coursework is often a balance of writing and research instruction, though additional coursework relevant to an organization’s mission helps.

Sample Program: Online Grant Writing Coursework from the University of Georgia

The University of Georgia offers a handful of online courses in nonprofit and grant writing, though students willing to travel to campus for four days can pursue a grant writing certificate. This online series of classes is ideal for students who already have bachelor’s degrees in journalism, technical writing or other relevant fields and want to segue into nonprofit work.

Salary & Career Outlook

Grant and technical writers can find work in a broad swath of sectors: the BLS projects demand for these professionals will grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. They earned a median annual wage of $70,930 in May 2017.

Employer Spotlight: UnboundEd

UnboundEd offers free, standards-aligned resources and an online training curriculum to Pre K-12 teachers in an effort to make quality education accessible to all students. The organization’s senior director of philanthropic development is a remote position that deals with developing and maintaining strategic donor partnerships, and grant research and writing is a vital part of that work. Though it is a telecommuting position, professionals may occasionally travel to represent UnboundEd at fundraising and key industry events.

Become a Policy Analyst or Researcher

Nonprofit organizations working for change are defined by their platforms. Policy analysts or researchers help establish and refine key policies, whether internal or in the public and political arenas. These professionals understand the issues inside and out, but also have a knack for finding a balance between an ideal and a feasible outcome. Some policy analysts participate in conferences and forums while others work quietly behind the scenes, researching the issues and discussing them with other policy experts.

Education Requirements

Policy analysts are closely related to political scientists. According to the BLS, many of these professionals need master’s degrees in political science, public administration or another relevant field, but candidates with bachelor’s degrees often qualify for entry-level positions at nonprofit organizations. Coursework varies, but tends to emphasize writing, research and analytical thinking. Courses on public policy and government administration are also common.

Sample Program: Online BA in political science from Arizona State University

According to its official website, Arizona State University’s online BA in political science gives students the skills necessary to lead others and solve real world problems while honing a more classic liberal arts education. The 120-credit program consists of 39 accelerated courses lasting just 7.5 weeks each. Key courses include political ideologies, quantitative applications, cultural diversity, historical awareness, and critical inquiry, among others.

Salary & Career Outlook

While the BLS reports that organizations will continue to research policy to advocate for specific causes, the field is expected to grow by just 3 percent between 2016 and 2026. Candidates with highly specialized knowledge and internship or volunteer experience may have an edge in the job market. Political scientists earned an annual median wage of $115,110 in May 2017.

Employer Spotlight: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization battles global hunger and food insecurity through strategic interventions. It relies on a number of remote policy experts to achieve its goals. The FAO’s specialist on sustainable land management policy and planning reviews laws, policies, and acts, and fine tunes policy statements on behalf of the organization. Though it is a home-based position, FAO policy specialists may travel to foreign regions to speak with local leaders and other stakeholders.

Find A Job in Philanthropy

As home-based work grows, so do the resources that support it. This includes nonprofit-friendly online programs to advance your education and web-based networking and job sites., for instance, focuses on job listings that do not fit the traditional 9-to-5, cubicle-shaped mold. Websites that specialize in nonprofit and philanthropic careers specifically include the National Council of Nonprofits, the Philanthropy News Digest and the Bridgespan Group.

Aimee Hosler
Aimee Hosler

Aimee Hosler is a long-time journalist specializing in education and technology. She is an advocate for experiential learning among all ages and serves as the director of communications for a non-profit community makerspace. She holds a degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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