She turned her passion for a cause into a career
Sabrina Pourmand wanted a job where she could do good every day. She found one, and her advice can help you find one, too.
It’s possible to be paid to do work for a cause you care about. Take it firsthand from Sabrina Pourmand, vice president of key relationships for the nonprofit Charity: Water, located in New York City.
The organization she works for provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has helped fund 13,641 projects in 22 countries benefiting more than 46 million people. Pourmand, 33, oversees raising money for projects for the nonprofit, as well as building and managing relationships with corporations.
“Asking money from people is not easy. It’s hard work so you have to be willing to put yourself out there,” says Pourmand. “When you realize you’re part of a community movement it’s very powerful. I love pushing the industry and changing the way people feel about charity.”
Pourmand is one of more than 10 million people employed in the nonprofit sector, which is growing—50% of nonprofits will create new positions in 2015. And if you think that doing good has to come hand in hand with bad pay, consider that VP roles in nonprofit public relations report salaries ranging from $69,829 to $154,997, according to PayScale. Eighty-six percent of employees in this field report job satisfaction and believe their work makes the world a better place.
Pourmand gave Monster an inside look at her career path in the nonprofit sector, and offers her advice for others who want to take part in charity work.
How she found her passion
Pourmand grew up in Silicon Valley, her parents immigrants from Iran and the Philippines. One day, she watched an exchange between her father and a homeless man and she witnessed the humanity her father showed for those suffering. It was the moment that sparked her desire for a social good career.
“I loved helping people from a very young age,” she says. “My heart was open to the world from the beginning.”
What credentials she needed
Pourmand attended the University of San Diego, where she majored in political science, and later, attended the University of San Francisco’s School of Business to obtain her master’s in nonprofit administration.
“International development versus working for a not-for-profit domestically are so different,” says Pourmand. “Working internationally you need skills in efficient system thinking and external relations for international development.” Additionally, on an international level, fundraising is usually on a macro level as opposed to micro and some organizations require a foreign language.
She says a master’s was necessary to help her get a foot in the door for the kind of work she wanted to do. “Working internationally and getting a job at an AIDS organization is competitive because you’re competing globally and this is the most esteemed job available to educated folks,” she says. ”A master’s is an entry point.”
Now that she’s in the position to hire, she says she hasn’t brought anyone onto her team without a master’s degree and years of experience.
What her first job was like
In 2005, at age 24, Pourmand went to South America to work for Pro Mujer, a microfinance organization that sought to enhance the lives of women and children who had no access to education.
“I was learning the power of what we can do when we invest in our fellow women in a way that respects their dignity,” Pourmand says. “This experience showed me that there was so much we could do in the world.”
“That’s when I was committed.”
How she climbed her career ladder
Looking to focus more on her community after her work in South America, Pourmand joined Habitat For Humanity, an international nonprofit housing ministry, to understand the deep-rooted challenge of massive gentrification. There, she discovered her strength in connecting with people.
Her next stop was working with World Vision International, a humanitarian aid, development and advocacy organization, for 15 months in Port au Prince, Haiti in response to the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 160,000 and displaced close to 1.5 million people.
“What I learned working 15 to 20 hours a day is you need to be able to collaborate well, to keep yourself grounded and humble, while also putting in that extra hour to get things done,” says Pourmand.
The skills she learned, both internationally and domestic–efficient system thinking, external relations, team building and grant writing–helped her become a director of programs for World Vision’s humanitarian response.
A World Vision recruiter later reached out to Pourmand to head efforts in Syria in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, where she would spend a year helping build the organization’s office. It was after this that a recruiter from Charity: Water sought her out for her current role.
“It’s an incredibly joyful experience,” Pourmand says. “Every day I oversee partnerships and get to collaborate with corporations in creative ways to inspire people to give differently online.”
Pourmand’s day-to-day consists of managing the key relationships leadership team, writing and structuring proposals, networking and holding meetings to build strong, healthy relationships with those who support her organization’s mission. Her team is currently striving toward fundraising a goal of $10 million for 2015.
Her advice to social do-gooders
Pourmand advises students to get experience now if you can, noting study abroad programs or internships are a valuable time to test yourself in a different culture, to work in a new language and to figure out your areas for improvement.
“Don’t underestimate internships and getting in there to volunteer your time,” says Pourmand. “There is much to say from the sacrifice behind that. Putting yourself out there can pay off.”