Working for an Environmental Non-Governmental Organization

Have you considered working for an Environmental Non-Governmental Organization sometimes abbreviated to ENGO?

There are a variety of groups; from the Canadian superstars like the World Wildlife Fund and the David Suzuki Foundation to local groups like Burlington Green and Earth Day Hamilton.

These organizations play a vital role in the environmental marketplace. They are able to advocate, educate and demonstrate in ways that government, corporations and small business can’t or won’t.

An Ottawa based, consulting firm, ‘Foot in the Door’, has a motto, “World Changers Wanted”. They make the following observation. “People don’t wind up working in the non-profit sector by accident. It’s a values-based choice and this is why it is so competitive!”

Environmentalists have the view that the fate of human life as we know it will be determined in the next few decades!

As in many occupations, some employers will want a first and second university degree or a degree and a diploma before being ‘short listed’ for a competition. But this rule of thumb is not universal.

Unlike many occupations, people who work in this field come from a variety of academic and life experience backgrounds. With a few exceptions, such as a certified energy auditor, there is no license or certification required.

Here are nine common competencies or skill sets derived from an examination of three dozen postings jobs in the ENGO sector Not every position requires each item. However, computer applications and the Internet are ubiquitous tools required to complete almost every task in these categories. If you are interested in this field, compare your current skill set and educational plan to the items on this list.

1.     Editorial: The newsletter, website, Facebook and blog: All groups are communicating their message through words, pictures and videos. Clear crisp and ‘politically correct’ copy is required.

2.     Education: Education Workshops, seminars, in-store displays, school events and household visits are all opportunities to ‘get the word out’ to the funders, donors, and clients. Tasks include the development and presentation of material.

3.     Event Management: A typical group may have an annual ecological festival, seminar, and conferences all of which will implement strategies developed in the event management field.

4.     Fund Raising: Unlike the broader public sector and business, some of these groups rely on fund raising activities to keep solvent.

5.     Grant Writing: The vast majority of these groups receive almost all their funding from government agencies, boards and commissions and public and private foundations. This ‘life and death task’ is frequently assigned to the executive director. Nevertheless, some organizations will welcome the input of junior staff.

6.     Management and Administration: The effective use of time, talent, and treasure is a measure of any type of organizations. Your skills and experience in this area will add value to the organization.

7.     Research: Research skills have been developed since you did your first ‘Google’ search. There is more to this skill than Google, cut and paste. The development, administration, and analysis of structured survey questionnaires, focus groups and the new trend of World Cafe all fall under this category.

8.     Visual Design: We are a visual society. Some digital photography and graphic design and page layout techniques will make everything from the Annual report to the Executive Director’s Power point presentation stand out.

9.     Volunteer Management: Most organizations have volunteers and interns. Someone needs to recruit, train, supervise and give them recognition.

Soft skills or people skills are also required. Many experts argue that these skills are necessary in almost any occupation.

The discerning reader will notice one omission- ‘Subject matter expertise’. Why was it left out? Surprisingly, it is frequently not a mandatory requirement of the position. A quick learner will be able to grasp many of the fundamentals of issues such as energy conservation or the value of local food without having to understand all the complexity global energy system, peak oil and the global food system. Nevertheless, it’s likely you will find the staff people in these organizations very knowledgeable about these issues. If you are hired, be prepared to do a lot of learning on your own time.

Most of these groups are clustered in three areas in the province:

1.     Ottawa

2.     The Golden Horseshoe (centred on Toronto)

3.     The Golden Triangle (Waterloo Region and Guelph)

Another characteristic of this sector is that most of the work is project and contract based. The organization is always looking for money for core operations or for new projects. Failure to find the money means that you may be looking for work again. That is a fact of life which will test your resolve.

Mike Fellowes is a Continuing Education Student currently studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACES offers a comprehensive Employment Advisement program for our students. For more information about Employment Advisement, please visit the MCACES website, or contact Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist at


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