America’s Best Cities for Young Nonprofit Professionals

This weekend Forbes.com released their list of America’s best cities for young professionals. To determine which cities made the cut Forbes.com measured unemployment rate, predicted job growth, cost of living, number of high profile companies, and concentration of graduates from elite schools (which indicates concentration of talent and career minded people).

While reading the list I couldn’t help but wonder what makes a city attractive to young nonprofit professionals. On the one hand, these measurements are important for all young professionals regardless of sector. For example, nonprofiteers especially want their money to stretch far–since we tend to make less of it compared to our for-profit peers–and are anxious to thrive while supporting their cause.

Yet I think the measurements offered by Forbes are incomplete when it comes to careers in the nonprofit sector. I find nonprofit work to be an after thought, not really included as a serious career choice or its employees having unique employment needs. Beyond money though, a culture where nonprofit work is valued results in a stronger professional and personal network, a sense of being part of the city, and opportunities to grow. Therefore, I wanted to brainstorm some measurements that might be important to young nonprofit professionals:

Size, job growth, and types of positions in the nonprofit sector: Essentially a snap shot of employment trends in nonprofit work in each city. These kinds of statistics show how sustainable the sector is in that particular city and if I can grow there.

Vocal nonprofits and partnerships with for profit and government: This indicates that the nonprofit sector has a strong presence in that city and that they are equal players in shaping the city.

Rate of volunteering: A city with a culture that fosters giving back, keeping nonprofits and public service at the forefront of city life.

Number of active young professionals groups or opportunities for meeting: To me, more important than the presence of graduates of elite schools is whether or not they are connecting around causes that are important to them. How easy will it be to find my peers, especially if I am new to the city or the sector?

I want a city where public service isn’t seen as an afterthought or nice idea–it is seen as a critical component of city life and its sustainability is viewed as crucial.

New York City would make the cut for me. In New York City, employment in the nonprofit sector grew in 2009 while it shrank in all other sectors. The nonprofit sector also increased employment of people between the ages of 16-24 by 17%. I’ve been able to connect with tons of people and organizations through YNPN-NYC and various other young professionals groups–not to mention all of the conferences that are held here each year. I’ve seen nonprofits–from grassroots to large institutions–mobilize to protest budget cuts and work with Mayor Bloomberg in launching new initiatives to support the nonprofit sector. We making progress in terms of volunteering but that cost of living still gets under my skin!

What do you look for when choosing a city for your nonprofit career? Any cities stand out to you as being great places for a career in the nonprofit sector?

Other posts you may find interesting:

1.  Meeting Fellow Nonprofiteers in New York

2.  Finding and Landing Your First Nonprofit Job