From Nonprofit to Social Enterprise: Launching a New Career In Business as a Force for Good

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Clare Healy has always been intrigued by the idea of business as a force for good. As she explained, “My parents own a small business, and growing up I spent a lot of time there with them. I really got to see the power of business in people’s lives and the communities.” She followed this interest to the University of St. Thomas, where she pursued a business degree grounded in the spirit of “all for the common good” and continues to mentor current students today. 

After graduation, Clare set out to find the place where she could leverage her unique talents for the greatest good. She began her career with a fast-paced nonprofit organization, gaining invaluable skills and experience along the way. But eventually, she found herself wondering: is there a place I could have an even greater impact and put my business background into practice? Continue reading to see how Clare navigated the transition to her dream job, and the role of the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship in helping her get there, below!

Growing as a Nonprofit Leader

Clare’s search for meaningful work led her to Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), a nonprofit working to support the growth and competitiveness of food processors across Africa. Clare initially joined the team as a Process Mapping Intern, where she provided program support. She enjoyed the work – and found that it was the perfect first job for her to hone her skills in a small team that wore many hats.

After a few years, however, Clare remembers “I started to feel stagnant, and was ready for a new challenge. Shortly thereafter, a new role opened for me on the Volunteer Operations side of the team. Part of the new role involved learning and managing Salesforce for our organization, which initially I wasn’t sure I was interested in, but as it turns out I ended up loving it.”

The new role was an effective short-term fix, but Clare realized that she might not be able to find all of the new challenges and growth she wanted at PFS in the long-term. But she still felt stuck – even if the job didn’t have everything she wanted, it did have a lot of things she wanted. She wavered back and forth, sharing that “I had half-heartedly been exploring what other opportunities were out there, but because I was in a good spot with PFS, I felt like my next job had to be equal to or better than what I already had and that’s an incredibly high bar. I was starting to feel pretty disheartened when it came to looking for work because I wasn’t sure if anything would surpass my amazing first job.”

Using the Pandemic to Explore New Challenges

When COVID-19 hit and PFS transitioned to remote work, Clare doubled down on exploring what opportunities were out there for her to further her career goals. She shared, “I decided to use some of that extra time I wasn’t spending on commuting to get a formal Salesforce certification. I had really leaned into that side of my role at PFS, and wanted to get more formal authority related to being an administrator.”

Completing the Salesforce certification revived something in Clare – her love of learning. When the course ended, she wasn’t ready to stop growing and being challenged, so she went to her boss for advice.

Clare reflected that, “I was initially considering graduate school, but I didn’t have a specific focus or end goal in mind that laddered directly to a graduate degree, so my boss encouraged me to look at Fellowship programs as an alternative. It was good advice – the last thing I wanted was to spend all of that money on an MBA only to realize that I don’t want to stay in a corporate environment. At that point, I knew I wanted something more, but I didn’t know exactly what that looked like yet.” 

Taking her boss’s advice, Clare started researching and ultimately discovered the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship. “Although I was already working in a social impact type of role, and unsure what my next career move would be, I was really interested in learning more about topics like human-centered design, the SDGs, sustainable development, and systems thinking. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but I took the leap and applied. I am so grateful I did.”

Gaining a New Perspective as a Global Fellow

The 6-month Global Fellowship starts with a 2-day virtual kickoff, where Fellows complete assessments and facilitated exercises to uncover their unique strengths and purpose drivers to get clarity on their right next move — based on who they authentically are.

These assessments were a major “aha” moment for Clare. She reflected that, “I had taken assessments like Myers-Briggs in the past, but this was a completely different level. It confirmed what I already knew but hadn’t been able to express: that my purpose is to help mission-driven organizations grow sustainably by creating processes and focusing on continuous improvement so employees can engage fully and lead with greater impact. In developing that purpose statement, I remember the workshop really challenged me to think about how I wanted that element of process and structure to carry through my work – whether that would be externally focused work like setting up new programs, or internally focused work like business process management. That prompt for reflection was like a lightning bolt for me because it helped me realize that where I really want to have an impact is at the organizational level, helping teams internally do their work more efficiently and effectively.”

This clarity of purpose helped serve as a compass for Clare moving forward, as well as a new way to frame her prior experience. Clare reflected that when she joined PFS, “it was a startup transitioning to normalizing and scaling its operations. They had a lot of visionary innovators on the team, but they needed someone task oriented who was ready to roll up their sleeves and put structures in place so that things could be done on a wider scale, and that was essentially what I was able to do over the course of my time there. So I would say that is what I’m most proud of: seeing my fingerprints on how PFS has grown as an organization over the years.”

Clare found that the kickoff weekend as a whole helped “put me on this path of being able to talk about my skills and experiences in a new way, and how I want to continue to apply them moving forward. Reflecting on the way my career has evolved at PFS, I’m proud of the impact I was able to help create, and also that I went about it in a way that was really authentic to my skills and strengths – even if I didn’t know they were my strengths at the time, like with Salesforce. At its core, Salesforce is helping people do their jobs better and more efficiently – and as I came to realize in the Fellowship, my dominant purpose driver is process and structure. Discovering and carrying that through each of my roles at PFS helped me see that I can, individually, have a big impact on how an organization operates when I help it develop structures that improve outcomes, and that’s something I definitely want to continue in my next role.”

From this foundation of self-knowledge, Clare was then better able to define what she was looking for. “I knew I wanted to find a company that was mission driven, preferably in a for-profit model so that I could leverage my business background, and where I could leverage some of those process, structure, and project management skills I’d gained at PFS in a new context. I also wanted to find a place where I could continue to grow and there was a path to leadership.” she shared.

Launching a New Career in Social Enterprise

The Fellowship helped Clare not only define new career goals, but also stay accountable for taking action to achieve them. She reflected that, “My accountability group has met every week since the beginning, and has been really proactive in figuring out how we can each make the most of our Fellowship experience. Coming in none of us were sure what to expect, but we’ve really leaned on each other to figure out how to tailor the program to our individual goals. They have been so incredibly supportive in building me up and helping me get both the confidence and motivation to finally start looking for new jobs.”

This time, Clare was able to enter the arena with a newfound sense of confidence. “MovingWorlds gave me the language and tools to refocus my job search in a way that actually was more authentic, but also actionable. I was able to realize things I hadn’t previously been able to put words to about what I wanted to be doing and how I wanted to be doing it. Reframing what I was looking for, plus the energy and motivation I got from my accountability group, is what helped me have the courage to keep moving forward.”

It didn’t take long for Clare’s efforts to pay off. She made it to the final rounds of interviews for not one but two different positions: one that involved doing the Salesforce work she loved from PFS at a different nonprofit, and one as a Business Systems Architect with a social enterprise called Angaza. As Clare explained, “Angaza is a technology social enterprise creating last mile solutions for people without access to credit or traditional banking services so that they can start on a path to financial inclusion and access life-changing products like solar lights and smartphones. The Business Systems Architect position on the Anzaga team is really my dream job: a for-profit with a social mission that would allow me to leverage both my business background and strengths around process and structure to make the organization as a whole even more impactful.” 

But before she completed interviewing with Anzaga and reached the offer stage, the nonprofit offered her the Salesforce position first. The choice she faced now was: do I say yes to a job that is a sure thing but doesn’t check all the boxes of what I’m looking for, or do I turn it down and continue interviewing for my dream job even though it’s not guaranteed?

The person Clare was before the Fellowship may have taken the safer choice, but the person Clare had become throughout the program was confident and brave enough to take the risk she knew was right for her. She remembers that moment clearly, reflecting that “when I turned down the nonprofit offer in favor or continuing with the interview process with Angaza, my accountability group was cheering me on and so encouraging every step of the way. Talking through the first offer with them and the MovingWorlds team helped me realize that I didn’t want to settle for good enough. Luckily, it ended up being the right decision, but it was a huge risk for me!” 

Clare’s next interview with Anzaga involved a real life case study – taking a problem that the Anzaga team was facing and putting together a proposal to address it. Again, the tools Clare had learned and gained over the course of the Fellowship helped her truly shine. “What I did was take the human-centered design approach to create an outline for this project plan, with timelines, a budget, Gantt charts, etc. I followed the flow of discovery, ideation and prototyping, testing, and then implementation, and the Anzaga team absolutely loved it. I got feedback from the hiring manager that it was clear, comprehensive, and easy to follow.”

The strong impression Clare left with her proposal translated into a job offer shortly thereafter. In fact, Clare remembers that “when I got the offer from the Anzaga team, one of the things they said was that my project management skills plus care and concern for the customers and end-users greatly exceeded that of people who had more years of direct experience than I did. That felt really, really good.”

In addition to leveraging her unique strengths and purpose, Clare’s new role also has the clear path to leadership she was looking for. “The Business Systems Architect position was a brand new role at Angaza – no one had been in this position before. So in a way, I’m getting to start from scratch and pave my own path, and I love that. If I can show the value of this kind of business process management and continuous improvement work, eventually it could expand into its own department. And I am more than up to the challenge!”

We’re grateful to Clare for sharing her story with us, and honored to be part of her social impact journey. Considering a social impact career change of your own? Apply to the MovingWorlds Institute for the tools, guidance, and network to achieve your career goals.