Growing my interest in not-for-profits

A view of Austin from across the river

I’m dedicating this post to all things I’ve encountered regarding not-for-profits since my arrival in Austin.  Just to throw some facts and figures at you, Austin has more non-profits per capita in the Southwest U.S. Region, approximately 6,300 in 2009 (that’s about 3.82 nonprofits per 1000 people).

Earlier this semester, I had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful non-profit consulting organization based here in Austin called Greenlights for Nonprofit Success.  Each Fall they host the Texas Nonprofit Summit, where members of non-profit organizations all over the state come for a weekend of seminars and spotlighted speakers.  At this year’s summit, I met quite a few accountants from firms (such as Padgett Stratemann & Co and PMB Helin Donovan) that serve a large number of non-profits, as well as accountants (some that graduated from the UT Austin MPA program) who now either work for non-profits or sit on their boards.

Representatives from a ton of great organizations that provide resources for non-profits set up booths.  For instance, if you’re interested in pro-bono work, you could register for AustinProBono, a start-up service that links up your professional skills with non-profits that could use your expertise.

Recently, I uncovered an issue of Accounting & Public Policy entirely devoted to governmental and not-for-profit accounting, published in 2009 and curated by one of UT’s own faculty members, Professor Granof.  The various papers in the issue touch upon topics such as whether rating changes impact contributions to non-profits (as say an S&P rating would for a for-profit firm), if the quality of an audit (firm) affects a non-profit’s reputation, and the reasoning behind a a non-profit organization’s pursuit of ventures that generate taxable income (i.e. through social enterprises).  There’s a field study on the subject conducted by Community Wealth Ventures, the Social Enterprise Alliance, and Duke University here if you want to read more.  In the foreword of that issue of Accounting & Public Policy, Granof & Baber (co-curator) mention their hope that the articles they gathered might inspire further academic research in the government & non-profit sector.  Any interest?

This is all to say, if you’re interested in non-profit or governmental accounting, there’s plenty to pursue here.

2 thoughts on “Growing my interest in not-for-profits”

  1. It’s great to hear that there are a lot of ways to engage with non-profits. I’ve heard that there’s an elective at the Texas MPA called Issues about Nonprofit Organizations. Have you taken this course and if so what are your thoughts? If you haven’t taken this course, what have you heard about it?

    Are a lot of students in the Texas MPA program planning on working with nonprofits in the future?

    What are other ways you can pursue accounting for non-profits at University of Texas at Austin?

  2. Hi Rebecca, thanks for the note! Sure, I’ll tell you all that I know, and on top of that, these would be good questions to ask the career consultants here. I am slated to take the not-for-profit accounting class in the Spring so can’t speak towards that quite yet (but will!). Anyway, the class is taught by Professor Granof (mentioned in my post). As for how many of us are pursuing non-profit careers, I think that there’s a handful of us who are interested and are all looking into NFP in different ways. Some of us hope to work with NFP clients at public accounting firms while others seek government agencies, etc. The job search process requires a lot more digging – looking up job possibilities through usajobs or and setting up informational interviews. It’s also possible for you to set up an internship during one of your semesters to do some work in NFP accounting. That’s the route I’m going this Spring (I’ll be working with a development team). Two additional things: 1) my career advisor, Vinh Nguyen, introduced me to Greenlights and other resources at the very beginning of the school year because I told him I was interested in nonprofits. I guess that’s to say if you mention your interest, people will help you out. And 2) different professors told me throughout the recruiting process that from their experience, you can move fairly easily between NFP and for-profit accounting work, so you can switch later on in your career if you’re still struggling to decide right now. Hope this was helpful.

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