Jul 28, 2002 | By Russell Pomeranz

Overcoming Frustration In Nonprofit Work

To the Editor:

Re ''A Path Paved in Dreams, Not in Gold'' (Executive Life, July 14), which described how and why for-profit corporate executives sometimes switch to the nonprofit sector:

Such successful transitions are probably the exception, not the rule. The switch is more complicated than for-profit executives envision because nonprofits generally need specific industry experience to achieve their goals. Realistically, when pay and the whiff of an improving economy are factored in, the commitment to a nonprofit career may seem less compelling.

Executives at for-profit companies understand that nonprofits are mission-driven. But they often don't understand that their lack of mission-related education, experience and temperament is not easily replaced by interest, no matter how passionate. A logical fit must build on proven administrative, marketing or financial skills.

Still, some entrepreneurial for-profit executives can successfully initiate new approaches to meeting traditional nonprofit needs. Others establish complementary businesses to service the nonprofit sector. Ultimately, the desire to reach financial goals in the context of a societal good, or artistic achievement, will determine a successful transition to nonprofit work.

This article is reprinted from a letter to the editor that appeared in the New York Times on July 28, 2002.