An old joke: How do you get to become a judge on the Supreme Court?
Answer: Be the college roommate of a future U.S. Senator.
In this article we don't address the pros and cons of foundation jobs, but simply how to go about getting one.
Many nonprofit folks like the idea of working at a foundation...and why not? Foundations jobs typically are easier, pay better, and have better benefits. And, as one person put it, "I'd like to try being the person being sucked up to instead of being the person doing the sucking up."
(We know foundation staff often work hard. We also know it's one thing to work until 10 pm prepping for the foundation trustee meeting and another to work until 10 pm trying desperately to keep a Sudanese mother from being deported away from her children, or writing a grant proposal, that if it's not funded, will mean you have to lay off two staff.)
Like many employers, how foundations say they hire is often different from how they actually go about the hiring process. When we interviewed foundation staff for this article, we asked two questions: a) what advice should we give to people seeking foundation jobs, and b) how did you get your job?
Most gave similar suggestions about how to get a foundation job, but almost none of them got their own jobs that way. For example, one program officer gave the usual advice about experience in the field, but she herself got her job by coming in as the foundation's human resources manager and was then transferred to grantmaking in a field where she had no prior experience.
Mostly, it seems, foundation program staff and executives get their jobs because of who they know, not necessarily what they know. But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to get a program job if you want to make the leap from a community nonprofit and you're not particularly well connected.
So, how do you get a job at a foundation?
1. Be related to the founding donor. You may have already made the strategic mistake of not having been born into the right family, or . . .