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 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.