Many moving from 'success to significance' Professionals making a change to nonprofit careers.

Your Career

April 30, 1992|By Diana Kunde | Diana Kunde,Dallas Morning News

DALLAS -- Florine Clark, a former trial lawyer, is executive director of the Jewish Coalition for the Homeless.

The nonprofit organization operates a child-care center for homeless families called the Vogel Alcove. "It's innovative, and we know it works" to help homeless families make a new start, she said.

Like Ms. Clark, a number of business and professional people have made the transition that management guru Peter Drucker describes as moving "from success to significance."

Mr. Drucker was talking about volunteer work. Ms. Clark and others like her have made a full-time leap into a public service career -- or are thinking about it.

Here are some tips and observations from these career-change veterans:

* Your business experience is indeed valued and valuable.

"I resent it when people suggest that nonprofits can't be run like a business -- they absolutely can," said Lucille di Domenico, who has held jobs in banking as well as nonprofits and heads Help Is Possible, a Dallas substance abuse treatment center.

Barbara Oppenheimer left a marketing job in the airline industry to develop and market educational products for the American Heart Association. "What I found is issues here are more complex. You have to consider more different constituencies. But you are still talking about increasing your effectiveness," she said.

* Tight money is a frustration, especially now.

Expect that, these veterans said. Jack Gorman, president of the Dallas Arboretum, said he sends 500 letters for a fund-raising campaign that used to require 100.

* The involvement of boards and volunteers means you'll need a more consensual management style than you may have practiced in your business setting.

"It's a much more consensus-oriented, process-oriented world," Ms. Johnson said.

* The personal payoffs can be high.

Ms. Clark took a pay cut when she made her change. She expected, and got, another kind of payback. "I loved being a trial lawyer. But I love being [now] in a position where I can use those skills in a way the community can benefit."

Despite the pressures of fund-raising, "at least here I really believe in what I'm doing, and you can see something being accomplished," Mr. Gorman said. "So, yeah, the fire still burns."

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