Lessons from a CEO!

Interview with Maggie Leithead, CEO, CharityVillage

Written by Banu Raghuraman

The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Endeavour.

CharityVillage is the top Canadian source for Canada non-profit news, non-profit jobs, non-profit funding, non-profit training and more. Maggie Leithead, CEO of CharityVillage, has been involved in non-profit work since her high school days. Read on to hear her thoughts on how to get involved and become successful in the non-profit sector.

Please give us a snapshot of your journey to CharityVillage.

Since high school, I have always worked in or around the non-profit sector. I was writing for a sister publication in fundraising and shared the office with Doug Jamieson, the founder of CharityVillage. I joined the team about six months after the site went live in 1995. So I have been around to see some trends that have come along and I’ve been lucky to witness lots of changes within the non-profit sector as well.

 What are the top characteristics every applicant in the non-profit industry has?

  1. Passion for changing the world.
    Whether it is the desire to save your local stream, protect pandas or cure cancer – whatever it is – you should have passion for and commitment to the cause. Most people who work in non-profits are drawn in by the desire to change the world. If you’re just looking for a paycheque, this isn’t the place for you.
  2. Flexibility
    The ability to wear many hats is key. Non-profits are stretched for resources. As a junior person, particularly in smaller organizations, you will often get a chance to learn a variety of roles.  You might have a chance to take on a big project early in your career. Being flexible and committed will help you move forward.
  3. Insatiable curiosity and want to learn
    If you’re really focused on doing only one thing in your career, then working in the non-profit sector will likely lead to some frustration. This ties in to the point about flexibility – you should be comfortable with change, and open to learning a lot of new things.
  4. Open to unstructured career paths
    For-profits tend to have a more structured career path. Non-profits generally tend to be flatter in structure and there may not be many upward professional development paths or opportunities to grow within an organization. Lots of non-profit staffers find it easier to develop professionally by moving to a new organization, rather than staying in a single place

What are the top skills that would be useful when the applicant is job hunting in the non-profit sector?

  1. Technical skills
    Depending on the kind of position, it is key that you have either the technical skills or experience needed, for example, marketing or fundraising, etc.
  2. Strong written and verbal communication skills
  3. Project management skills
    You should be able to help move a project from conception to fruition.
  4. Teamwork
    Unlike for-profits, many non-profits rely heavily on unpaid talent (i.e. volunteers). On any given project, you may work with a mix of staff and/or volunteers. You’ll need strong team skills to balance the competing needs of busy people, whether they’re being paid to work with you or not.
  5. Tech savvy
    From Skype, to Google docs, to complex fundraising databases, you’ll need be able to use technology effectively.

Unfortunately, sometimes, we come across postings which may not be genuine. How do we determine the authenticity of the job posting?

  1. Definitely go to trusted sources or websites.
    For example, at CharityVillage, we do check the authenticity of each posting before it goes live.
  2. Do your homework
    If the posting sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do a Google search and find out what the organization is all about.

How are you different from the other organizations that may offer similar services?

Most people know about CharityVillage because of our job board, but that’s not how we’ve defined ourselves. Since we went online in 1995, we’ve always wanted to be an online resource for changemakers – a place to connect non-profit professionals to ideas, opportunities and each other. The job board is just one slice of that. We also offer thousands of articles and training to help people become more effective in their roles and keep on top of what’s happening in the sector. More recently, we’ve built in a community layer to the site so that people can connect directly with their peers to discuss issues and ideas that are important to them.

The non-profit sector is massively important to Canada. It accounts for 7% of our GDP and it’s the second largest non-profit sector in the world. We have a stronger Canada when we have strong non-profit organizations and engaged professionals working in those organizations. We want to help people change the world – that’s much more fun that just being a job board!

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