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March 17, 2008

Corporate Executives Make the Switch to Nonprofit Work, With a Few Bumps

While charities often try to lure executives from the business world, some former corporate executives are finding themselves drawn to nonprofit work — though there are some bumps along the way, reports The Financial Times.

Connie Duckworth, a retired advisory director at Goldman Sachs, founded Arzu Rugs, a nonprofit group that helps Afghan women sell the rugs they weave, after a visit to Afghanistan. Kelly Fiore, who worked for Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs, left the business world and created Charity Folks, an online marketplace that auctions items and events donated by public figures; though it is a business, 80 percent of donations go to charity, the newspaper reports.

“I loved the intellectual challenge, and both organizations were phenomenal to work for from a career-development standpoint,” Ms. Fiore says. “But I started wondering what I was doing every day and what effect I was having on the world.”

Business people who make the transition to nonprofit work face several hurdles: the lack of technology and other support, lower pay, and cultural differences between business and charity, for example. But executives can also contribute their business skills to nonprofit management.

John Wood, who left Microsoft to start Room to Read, a group that supports literacy and education in several countries, says: “I tell our team that we want to run Room to Read with the compassion of Mother Teresa but the focus and tenacity of a blue-chip company.”

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