Nonprofit Social Service Directors
Exploring this Job
The best way to explore this field is by doing volunteer work for a nonprofit social service organization such as a hospice, shelter, or community outreach organization. Volunteering will give you exposure to the work environment, as well as the situations an organization's clients face, and help you develop your listening and communication skills. It can also give you an understanding of the way nonprofits work and the kind of expectations employers will have.
Anyone looking for a career that provides a diversity of responsibilities, satisfaction, meaning, action, and a wide realm of options should certainly consider entering the field of social work. Social workers are people who are committed to making a positive difference in the human condition, and the director of an organization has the primary responsibility of seeing that the organization achieves its goals and impacts positively on the lives of the people it's designed to serve.
An aspect of social work that sets it apart from other helping professions is the concept of helping people in their environments. Social workers help clients not only with how they feel about a situation, but also with what they can do about it. For example, a woman suffering stress from being a single parent may be referred by a social worker to a child care agency. The social worker also might help her explore other options, such as getting flex time at work. In addition, the social worker might provide therapy or counseling or refer the client to a qualified therapist for assistance in managing her stress. A wide variety of nonprofit organizations are at work in the United States today, and each has a different mission and set of services.
Because it now takes such a high level of professional sophistication to keep a nonprofit going, directing these sorts of organizations is becoming a complex, challenging, and varied career. At one time, the biggest prerequisite to those who wanted to work in social services was a big heart. Today, compassion is still a necessary quality to have, but knowledge, skill, and talent are just as important. A director of a social services organization may be in charge of managing staff, overseeing the budget, spearheading fund-raising efforts, and handling public relations issues.
In any nonprofit organization, even as the top individual in the structure, a board of directors will likely determine the nature of a director's work. This board, plus the size and nature of the organization, will define the director's duties to a large extent.