Wouldn’t it be nice to change the world for the better… and get paid to do it?
When looking for work, many folks often consider entering the non-profit sector. Whether it’s a particular mission you are already passionate about or just the thought of putting your talents and skills to meaningful use, the thought of serving a higher purpose has a lot of appeal.
Then the objections kick in:
“Non-profits don’t pay enough, and I have a family to support.”
“Non-profit work is for rookies, and would be a step down for me.”
“Ugh, I can’t imagine working in an office where everyone is a left-wing do-gooder!”
These objections have varying degrees of truth, and deserve closer examination.
“Non-profits don’t pay enough”
The non-profit office is typecast as run by a multi-tasking skeleton staff working long hours with outdated technology and equipment. This is often true. A 2010 Nonprofit Quarterly examination of Bureau of Labor Statistics information found that “those who work for non-profits are likely to be paid less than their counterparts in the private sector or in government, and particularly in higher-level jobs and management.”
That said, non-profits often offer benefits and perks that simply aren’t found in the corporate world, including intrinsic personal rewards. Doing good feels good, and being perceived as a white knight by your friends, family, and community feels pretty nice too. Studies have shown that non-profit workers have higher morale and job satisfaction than those in government or private sector careers.
The benefits package offered to employees of non-profit organizations often makes up for what is lacking in cash compensation. Insurance plans are often top-notch, work schedules are flexible, and retirement plans and vacation schedules are generous.
“Non-profits are for rookies”
Charitable organizations often attract a younger workforce. The pay might be lower, but the opportunities for leadership are greater, and the non-traditional hours that are often required is less of a deterrent for those who do not have a family waiting for them at home. This has grown the perception that “charity work is for rookies.”
The truth is that many business people in mid-career make the switch from the for-profit to the non-profit world. Reasons vary – corporate burnout, desire to make a difference, desire for more flexibility – but combined with less need for monthly income and more need for insurance and retirement benefits, non-profit work becomes very attractive.
Caution: Non-profits can’t offer the same level of professional development as their corporate counterparts. The resources for training and skills grooming often just aren’t there, so professional development programs are often lacking or nonexistent.
“Non-profit workers are a bunch of liberal do-gooders”
This stereotype persists even in light of several well-known non-profit organizations whose causes advocate “conservative” values – the National Rifle Association, Operation Rescue, and the Christian Coalition are but a few examples.
Your goal is to find an organization whose mission resonates with your personal beliefs and values. Your co-workers will also be passionate and committed to that cause, whatever their political leanings.
Caution: “Social welfare organizations” with an overt political agenda are being closely looked at by the Internal Revenue Service, as many feel the tax-protected status they enjoy is being abused.
Take a closer look
There are many things that need careful consideration when contemplating a career with a charitable organization. A few starter questions to ask yourself are:
• How might I contribute to the causes I am most passionate about?
• Is the total compensation package, wage plus benefits, enough for me and my family?
• Is personal satisfaction in “making a difference” as important to me as earning a higher wage?
• Am I a self-starter? How much personal responsibility for developing my career can I carry?
Myths and misconceptions abound when exploring the differences between the non-profit and for-profit cultures, but with a little research and some soul-searching, you may find that “changing the world” is indeed your calling.