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Marty Martinez, Demonstrating a Commitment to Youth Services

NOTE: Marty Martinez is now President and CEO of Mass Mentoring Partnership. At the time this article was written, Marty held the title Director of Program Services.

As the Director of Program Services at Mass Mentoring Partnership, the only nonprofit that focuses on start-up and sustainability of high-quality mentoring programs statewide, Marty Martinez has his work cut out for him. With a deep personal commitment to youth services, as well as over eight years of experience in the field, Marty now lends his talent and drive to helping a number of mentoring organizations become more effective in the communities they serve.

Here’s what Marty had to say about his current role, career path, and thoughts about working in the nonprofit sector:

Tell us about your role as Director of Program Services. What is your favorite part of this work?

I work with program staff from other mentoring organizations, both school and community based, to help them think through their programs. I work closely with them on developing strategies to recruit more mentors, defining protocols for screening mentors, and creating evaluations for assessing outcomes. I also act as a sounding board and an advisor to help them figure out where they’ve been successful and where they need to adapt their program strategies.

My favorite part of my job is the ability to be innovative and come up with creative solutions to problems. Just today, I walked into an organization that had some amazing new ideas for training and capacity building. I enjoy working with organizations that are open to new processes and new types of training.

How has your career path to date led you to your current position?

From the start, my career focused on supporting programs that serve young people. I have always been passionate about human services and social services. I started off doing the actual fieldwork, such as running prevention programs and providing other direct services. Since I worked full-time while earning my bachelor’s degree, I already had a good deal of experience in youth services by the time I finished college.

By later returning to school to earn my Masters degree, I was able to shift my focus from direct services to nonprofit management. By the time I entered graduate school, I already had a lot of direct services experience in my tool kit to build upon. This inspired me to look at this work from a broader perspective, and to ultimately make a bigger impact in the field by focusing on capacity building.

What were the most important criteria in choosing your current position?

I knew I wanted to continue working with youth, and I focused my job search on organizations that shared my passion for youth services. I looked closely at each organization’s mission, as well as the staff’s enthusiasm for the mission.  Those factors became the most important criteria in my search. I need to be part of an organization that has a mission I believe in, and I found that at Mass Mentoring Partnership.

I’ve found in my career that if I can find a position that meets these criteria, it’s easier to make other sacrifices around things like salary or specific responsibilities. It’s true what they say: do what you love, and the money will follow.

What drives you to work in the social sector?

I come from a low-income, Hispanic community. I was one of the first people in my family to go to college and graduate. While growing up, I received so much support from the local community center and other nonprofit programs. This experience instilled in me the value of supporting and building communities. I would not be where I am today if I had not received that support.

The bottom line for me is people, not how much I earn or what my title is. At this stage of my life, I could get a job in the private sector earning at least twice what I earn now. But that’s not why I work. I’m committed to giving back and helping others in the same way I was helped.

What advice do you have for jobseekers that are interested in pursuing opportunities in program management?

I would say to jobseekers that you need a combination of passion, drive, and reality. There are great opportunities and organizations doing great work, but you need to be prepared to deal with the struggles of program management, such as trying to find grants and working in a resource constrained environment. Everyday, I’m required to make a lot with very little.

The nonprofit world is very professional and filled with innovators. Program management is at the core of this innovative work. You can really make a very exciting career.

Most importantly, the desire to work in program management has to be mission-driven. You must genuinely want to commit to giving back, not just having the prestige or the salary of a given role because that’s not what will sustain you through the toughest days.

What are the greatest challenges facing the social sector today?

One big challenge is figuring out how to retain professionals in the field long-term. I’m 30 years old and have a Masters Degree. I love my work, but I still need to earn a salary where I can support myself. It’s important that people my age are able to buy a home and support a family. If the sector can’t pay bigger salaries, it needs to come up with other incentives for employees.

Diversity is another big challenge. The sector is great at developing program staff into managers, but less strong at moving managers into director-level and executive positions. It is important that nonprofit directors and executives reflect the communities being served by the organization. There needs to be more “decision makers” of color for this to be true.

What can nonprofit organizations do better to attract new talent to the social sector?

There are a few things. I already mentioned salary, and I think benefits are an area where organizations can pick up the slack. By getting creative about non-monetary benefits, such as flexible schedules or casual work attire, organizations may be able to attract a new crop of employees.

Organizations need to be committed to reaching out to young professionals. They need to get in front of undergraduates and have a visible presence on college campuses. When I was an undergrad, I remember seeing banks and consulting firms at every career-related event, but never any representation from the nonprofit sector. The sector needs to be more aggressive to compete for talent with the private sector.

Like a lot of the work we do, attracting new talent requires innovation. Many young professionals are attracted to innovation and want to become a part of an organization that does things differently. To me, there is nothing more exciting for a young professional than to create a new idea, implient it and see its impact.  By creating and communicating a culture of innovation, many organizations will attract these types of young thinkers and leaders.

Finally, I think there are a lot of people who join the field out of a personal commitment. Some join because they came from an underserved community; others join because they had a privelleged background and feel committed to give back. No matter what drives someone to the field, nonprofit talent need to feel that they are making some sort of contribution. At the end of the day, our bottom line is about people and community. The sector needs to stress this as a key benefit of nonprofit work.

This article was written by Commongood Careers and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

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