Nonprofit Program Associate

Robin Tucker

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I work for an environmental nonprofit grant-making organization. We are the largest funder of energy related projects in the country with a yearly budget of between $12-15 million. My work deals with cleaning up power plants, promoting renewable energy , and encouraging businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. What skills are needed? Great writing skills --- the ability to be persuasive, coherent, and concise. Good organizational skills --- the ability to keep track of many different grant projects, grant proposals , and deadlines. What was your major? Political Science / International Relations How did you get started in your career? I was always interested in environmental issues . I had spent a year in the corporate world right after college and realized that my work, public relations, did not really contribute to society in any meaningful way. Making rich people richer made it difficult to sleep at night. Many of the skills I developed at my first job, especially computer-related knowledge, overlapped with the new position. What experience do you need in this job? This is largely an entry-level position, but solid internships from college help fill out an otherwise meager resume. Internships are likely to increase your knowledge of computer applications used in an office environment. Most college students are quite familiar with word processing, but they may lack database or spreadsheet application skills. Also, interest in environmental issues is more important than experience, so you should not be afraid to list the activities and groups you were in during college. Describe your "typical" workday: There is no such thing as typical, thankfully. Things I frequently do include: meeting with grantees to hear a pitch for funding, discuss progress, or brainstorm about problems; reading reports from grantees and writing up progress evaluations for our board of directors to consider; reading funding requests and either writing rejection letters or passing them on to my superior for further consideration; planning meetings ; drafting reports to our funders; arranging travel; and contacting grantees for information or required documents. What is the hardest aspect of your job? Turning away projects due to lack of funding. We realize that cutting or denying funding to an organization may mean someone loses a job. That's a lot of power. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Everyday I've helped contribute to changing the world for the better. That sounds a bit idealistic and corny, but it's true. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Get involved in environmental issues at a grassroots level. Grassroots advocacy groups ALWAYS need help whether it's leafleting, administrative work, outreach, fund raising, etc. It's a great way to learn about the particular field in which you've developed an interest and advocacy/nonprofit work in general. I can say with a 99 percent degree of certainty that you won't get rich working in the nonprofit sector. However, your benefits package (insurance, vacation time) will likely far surpass your corporate counterparts. I wouldn't trade my job for anything.