What About Working for a Nonprofit?
By Jim Baumer, MaineFocus.org
I continue to be amazed by the number of job seekers I encounter that know little or nothing about an important employment sector: the nonprofit world.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. These organizations include: public charities, private foundations and fraternal organizations, such as the Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, and many others.
The moniker "nonprofit" can be a bit misleading, causing those unfamiliar with them to be influenced by myths.
While profit isn't the primary goal for most of these organizations, that doesn't mean that they don't generate income - they certainly do.
Debunking Three Myths
Here are some (among many) common myths that are perpetuated:
"You'll starve if you work for a nonprofit." While the salaries have been historically "discounted" compared to the private industry, salaries are increasingly becoming more competitive with the private sphere.
"Everyone who works for a nonprofit is out to save the world." While I'm all for saving the world, nonprofits are just like any other private sector company out there - they pay you for the work that you do. Oh, and by the way, not everyone who works for one is a saint. Greed, social climbing, and personal ambition are prevalent, just like everywhere else.
"Nonprofits don't pay taxes, so they don't contribute to society." Actually, nonprofits often provide services that government agencies either don't offer or prove too costly to provide. Examples include: education and training, healthcare, daycare, and shelter for the homeless. Through tax-exemptions, governments support their work and receive a direct benefit.
Is Nonprofit Work for You?
- Match your values. What makes you a good fit for nonprofit work? Before you make that career move, make sure that your values align with the goals and mission of the agency (or agencies) you are considering joining. Otherwise, you'll lack effectiveness and eventually wash out.
- Consider the culture... and how you would fit into it.
If you're interested in bridging your career and leaving the for-profit sector behind, here are some great questions and answers about transitioning to a nonprofit.
We all have to work and get paid. If you can do that and at the end of the day feel good about doing something that makes the world just a little bit better, take it from me, it has its perks.
Jim Baumer is the Director of Business Services for the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board, a nonprofit where he's worked for the past five years. In addition, he's also an entrepreneur, a writer, as well as an independent publisher with two books in print and new ones on the way. Jim posts additional pieces at his blog.