Are You Considering A Career In the Nonprofit Sector?

  • Working for non-profits leads to satisfying employment filled with purpose and meaning!
  • Nonprofit employment is about always feeling over-worked and under-paid!
  • Nonprofit jobs are exciting, creative, and cutting-edge!
  • The nonprofit sector is a stressful career doing too much with too few resources!
If you have heard comments like those above and you are wondering which ones might be most apropos to nonprofit employment, consider the possibility that all or none may be valid. Just as private, for-profit businesses vary in size, culture, financial resources, and purpose, nonprofit agencies and the career opportunities they provide are highly diverse. Some nonprofits exist in one-room settings with hand-me-down furniture and operational procedures that are best described“awing and a prayer.” Other nonprofits are massive enterprises with multiple offices across state lines or beyond, with stringent operational standards and formal management hierarchies. Some nonprofits serve people, others serve ideas, some aim to safeguard the planet while otheFclubsrs may exist to support for-profit ventures such as networking organizations and professional clubs.
What uniquely sets the nonprofit sector apart from for-profit business has less to do organizational culture, management style, job duties, dress code, or even purpose. The primary distinction of nonprofit organizations is how revenue is expended. For-profit businesses exist to expend monetary profits. Not-for-profits exist to fund specific efforts in the absence of monetary gains to private interests such as shareholders.
Why Work for a Non-Profit Organization?
Despite the monetary distinctions between private industry and nonprofit organizations and the diversity within the nonprofit community, many nonprofit organizations offer career opportunities that serve a variety of purposeful causes in areas such as arts and culture, child welfare and advocacy, education, the environment, health, law, public policy, religion, science, social change, social services, and technology. Some roles within the nonprofit sector have little interaction with the organization’s mission such as jobs in finance, administrative support and payroll, some IT jobs, and the mailroom. While some individuals in such jobs may enjoy knowing their employer is in the business of performing “good deeds” the focus of such work may not always evoke a personal connection to their employer’s mission since such roles typically offer marginal involvement with its agency’s philanthropic cause.
Nonprofit jobs that are typically affiliated with directly serving an organization’s mission falls into the wide-reaching categories of executive leadership, programmatic leadership, program implementation, development (grant writing/fundraising), and communications. Programmaticimplementation, development, and communications are excellent places to consider entry-level employment within the nonprofit sector. Educational requirements in these broad areas can range from advanced degrees to para-professional levels requiring little more than a high school diploma or some college. For college students considering a career in nonprofits, trying out such roles through internships, part-time, or summer jobs can be a great way to explore direct-client or direct-organizational impact duties while building exposure and résumé qualifications to continue advancing should nonprofit work prove appealing.
Do all nonprofit employees pay low salaries?
One generally does not dedicate a career in the nonprofit sector expecting to reap extensive monetary wealth. Generally, the larger and more established nonprofits tend to pay more competitive salaries than smaller, grass-roots organizations. The more expertise and/or senior level role played within the nonprofit community will also impact earning potential within this sector. Some nonprofit agencies offer extensive benefits packages while other agencies offer generous paid time off. For some nonprofit work, the best feature will have everything to do with the work culture and/or philanthropic cause which can be why the nonprofit sector is sometimes so fulfilling despite potentially low wages and/or limited resources.
Robert F. Kennedy once said:
The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.
If that thought echoes something inside of you, perhaps you owe it to yourself to explore the option of working in the nonprofit sector
By Serena Santillanes
Serena Santillanes President