Do you have a deep passion for Westchester’s community and a genuine commitment to addressing its issues? If so, a career in the nonprofit sector could be your calling. While it may not be an easy journey and achieving goals can take time, it’s rewarding work.
“I love working with the nonprofit workforce,” says Jan Fisher, the Executive Director of Nonprofit Westchester. “There’s so much value that everyone brings to the table. It’s an honor to represent the people and organizations that are the lifeblood of Westchester.”
With more than 300 members, Nonprofit Westchester is the county’s only membership organization that works to advance the needs of the workforce, the community, and the nonprofit sector as a whole. It centers initiatives around three pillars of service, which include advocacy and research, professional development, and collaboration.
“To make it in Westchester, you have to be committed to the mission of your organization and be collaborative in nature,” says Fisher. “You have to be driven by work that really benefits the public and, in order to create change, you must work together.”
One member organization of Nonprofit Westchester is the Westchester Children’s Association (WCA). WCA has a record of advocating for effective policies and programs for children since 1914. Today, the nonprofit continues as a successful multi-issue children’s advocacy organization. It is not a direct service nonprofit but instead works on policies, budgets, and programs that impact children and young adults.
“We work with almost all other nonprofits in Westchester,” says Allison Lake, the Executive Director of WCA. “We start with the data and then use our community partners to drive our advocacy agenda and recommendations.”
Similar to many other people working for nonprofits, Lake never expected to be working in the sector. Although she has been with WCA for 25 years now, she originally thought her career path would be one of international service work. After returning home from the Peace Corps, Lake saw a need in the Westchester community and never looked back.
“It’s really an interpersonal and people-heavy career if you go into advocacy,” says Lake. “You have to be passionate about your work and be in it for the long haul because it can take years to change policy and legislation.”
Since nonprofits stretch across many issue areas, there are a whole host of career options in the sector. People can be involved in advocacy, research, fundraising, management, communications, event planning, IT, human services, and more. While it’s often natural to associate nonprofit careers with roles such as case workers and social workers, the opportunities available in the nonprofit sector are robust.
“We use interns a lot at the WCA at the undergraduate level who come in with a passion for change, but also a general understanding of how systems work,” says Lake. “It’s important that people are willing to learn as they go because this career demands different skills at different times.”
Even people who aren’t looking for long-term careers in nonprofits can get involved in local organizations. People can volunteer, donate, and advocate for legislation. At Feeding Westchester, the community is at the forefront of everything it does.
“One in three households in Westchester County are at risk of hunger,” says Jenine Kelly, Vice President of Development, Marketing, and Communications at Feeding Westchester. “We collaborate with more than 300 community partners and programs.”
Feeding Westchester is a member of Feeding America, the nationwide network of more than 200 food banks across the country. It works to bring nutritious food to areas in Westchester County that need it most. Kelly says that people who want to work in nonprofits should be resourceful and have great partnership skills.
“We have strong, passionate, and motivated people working here,” Kelly adds. “We also rely on the voices of the community to make us stronger.”
In Westchester County, the nonprofit sector is a thriving force with dedicated people who want to improve the community. If you are considering a career in nonprofits, there are endless opportunities waiting for you.