Career Path: Community Based Organization
It is not uncommon for individuals employed by nonprofit community based organizations to “wear many hats”, fulfilling a variety of roles for an agency. Some potential titles:
Financial Counselor/Coach; Credit Counselor; Housing Counselor
What You Will Do:
Community based organizations are often grassroots organizations, fulfilling a variety of roles that reflect the needs of their community. Potential responsibilities include one or more of the following:
- Provide education and counseling services in areas of budgeting, debt elimination, credit, foreclosure prevention, tenant/landlord regulations, and other financial skills.
- Resolve debt/credit issues, qualify applicants, and provide required education components for self help housing programs, first time homebuyer grants, Individual Development Accounts (IDA)
- Negotiate debts with creditors to set up repayment plans, lower interest rates or negotiate late fees.
- Advocate with lenders, lawyers, and federal entities.
- Assist individuals in specific subsets of the population including:
- Abuse shelters/transitional housing
- Economically Vulnerable Populations (youth, elderly, ESL populations, minorities, individuals with disability, etc).
What Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Will Make You Successful:
- Knowledge of social services delivery systems principles, theories, and practices.
- Ability to apply counseling techniques and social services principles, theories, and practices.
- Ability to identify areas for improvement in individual/family budgets and develop methods to manage debt.
- Skill in oral and written communications and in negotiations.
Where You Should Start:
Educational requirements will vary; however, a Bachelor’s degree in a related field or equivalent education and experience is preferred and sometimes required. Accredited Financial Counselor(AFC®) certification is highly recommended. Additional certifications/education may be required for for positions specializing in a particular area.
Establishing a connection to the nonprofit sector can be a helpful step toward obtaining a position. Nonprofit community based organizations often use volunteers/interns to supplement their services. This can be an excellent way to gain experience with a specific agency until a position opens up. Community based organizations also have volunteer board positions. Serving on the board or on a committee can be an excellent way to make contacts with other nonprofit organizations as well as private sector organizations.
Starting positions in a community based organization, such as a Financial Counselor or Housing Counselor, often work under a Program Manager and an Executive Director. If you wish to pursue program management supervisory experience, grant writing, program evaluation/development skills are strongly recommended.
Your Salary Potential:
The pay scale can vary greatly depending on the size of the nonprofit organization, your role, and the organization’s ability to obtain grant funding. In general, larger community based organizations will offer better pay and benefits for an entry level position, but working with a smaller nonprofit may afford you greater latitude in your job, provide you the opportunity to learn additional skills and provide valuable experience in a variety of areas.