I was really happy with the feedback I received from my last article”Should I get a nonprofit job?” The responses I got, some of which you can read in the comments, helped me focus the message I was trying to convey:

A nonprofit job is not the only way to make a living and make a difference in the world.

In the comments, I think I hit upon the real issue, which is the lack of Civic Literacy I see among people in my age/social group. I don’t mean “young people are lazy/apathetic/ungrateful/whatever”, but that we don’t know how to effectively participate and initiate change in our communities and society—for no lack of interest. We’re having to make things up as we go along, which as I think my parent’s generation would agree, didn’t work out quite the way they thought it would.

So below are three suggestions I have for the intelligent, well-educated (or seeking to be), self-motivated and upwardly mobile individual who can be an ally of the nonprofit sector, but not necessarily employed by it.

  1. Serve on the Board

Executive Boards are the driving force behind nonprofit organizations. Boards set broad goals and provide important oversight for the functioning of the organization. Many boards have term-limits for serving, which means they need a constant influx of knowledgeable and engaged individuals. Boards often run by the Three-G’s—Give, Get or Get out—but an active board will provide great opportunities for involvement beyond fundraising.

  1. Start a Family Foundation

You can turn the typical fundraising experience on it’s head by offering a Request for Proposals, and get a tax write-off as well. Starting a Foundation allows you control social priorities by controlling the purse-strings. Because you’re offering a grant and not an individual gift, you have a better opportunity to target specific programs or objectives with increased accountability and oversight. Did someone say “site visit”?

  1. Write your Public Representative

There was once a time in America when people believed it was the federal government’s responsibility to offer many of the services that the nonprofit sector now provides. Regardless of your political-philosophical position, the government still provides massive amounts of funding to social causes. Contact your local, state or national representative and request support for your particular cause. You might not be able to target a particular organization for earmarks, but a rising tide raises all the boats.