After a year of unprecedented demand for their services due to the social disruption brought on by the pandemic, many overworked and short-staffed Canadian charities are cautiously re-entering the labour market to recruit reinforcements.
“We have never been busier. You just keep going and going and going,” said Sara Napier, chief executive officer of United Way Halifax. “The non-profit sector needs talent, needs innovative thinkers, needs resiliency,” said Ms. Napier, who has made some strategic hires in the past few months, including a laid-off banker with an MBA who had been working as a food delivery driver to make ends meet.
While much of the sector remains in precarious financial shape, organizations in the position to do so are replenishing their ranks by recalling employees laid off earlier in the pandemic and recruiting for positions vacant because of attrition – creating new career opportunities for people from a range of occupational backgrounds.
At CharityVillage, which operates an online job board for Canadian charities and not-for-profit organizations, postings are now at “pre-COVID levels,” says Mary Barroll, general counsel and vice-president of media affairs. This is likely due to “reserved budgets from 2020 and organizations feeling more confident about their futures given the vaccine rollout,” she said in an interview.
In the week ended April 23, there were more than 1,000 positions listed on the CharityVillage site, reflecting the diversity of the sector and the services it provides. In addition to current postings for fundraising and philanthropy specialists, an organization that trains service dogs is looking for a social worker to support its clientele. A B.C. charity that serves adults with autism is advertising for an executive director. An Ontario women’s shelter has posted for a hydroponic farm lead – the agency’s social enterprise arm grows and sells produce. Hackergal, whose mission is to entice more girls to computer science, is looking for bilingual program managers and a curriculum designer. The Association of Ontario Midwives is recruiting for a finance administrator.
There has been a surge of interest, as well, in the online professional development programs offered by CharityVillage – not only from people within the sector looking to upgrade their skills, but also from private-sector professionals re-evaluating their career priorities, Ms. Barroll said.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of community involvement and the impact the non-profit sector has on making life better for so many people... We have seen a lot of what we call sector shifters.”
After banker Ambuj Laroiya lost his job as a commercial account manager in May, 2020, he applied – without success – for 300 jobs, sat through 50 interviews and logged 57,000 kilometres as a food delivery driver to pay down his student debt (Dalhousie University MBA 2019).
By the time United Way Halifax offered Mr. Laroiya the position of relationship and development officer in January, however, the labour market had rebounded, he had received several private-sector offers and was about to start a new job in the insurance business of a major bank.
But Ms. Napier was persuasive, and the opportunity to redeploy his skills on behalf of United Way appealed to Mr. Laroiya, who had been involved in community service as a volunteer throughout his childhood and early career as a mid-level bank manager in India. He moved to Canada five years ago.
In his new role at United Way, Mr. Laroiya works with donors, trains volunteer leaders of workplace fundraising campaigns and is still logging kilometres – picking up and delivering computers and monitors no longer needed by a downtown Halifax law firm; distributing sanitizing gel donated by federal government departments that have no plans of bringing public servants back to their offices any time soon.
He is also developing potential new partnerships between the agency and the business community, drawing on relationships he developed with restaurant owners as delivery driver and the rapport he established with many of the local business leaders who interviewed him during his job hunt.
The team Ms. Napier has assembled includes a lawyer, an accountant, sales and marketing specialists. “Don’t be intimidated if you are not a social worker or you don’t have a masters in non-profit leadership,” she advises people potentially interested in charity or non-profit work.
“We need more and more people looking at this sector and saying, ‘Yeah, this is really where I want to build my career.’”
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