Monday Morning Pep Talk
The nonprofit sector may offer experienced workers a second career combining passion, social interaction and a continued income. The thought of “doing well by doing good” may not have been a possibility early in a career, however the idea of finding work with meaning is often of high importance choosing a second career. According to the Urban Institute, from 2001 to 2011 nonprofit jobs grew 25% while new jobs in the for-profit sector rose half of one percent.
As mature workers consider moving from for-profit organizations to nonprofit work, here are three major misconceptions to be aware of when making the career change to a nonprofit:
Myth #1: Working in a nonprofit is less complicated than corporate employment. The reality is that nonprofits have the same complexities and organizational structures as corporations. Nonprofits have the additional burden of constant fundraising and the transparency required to donors insuring their contributions are primarily directed to programs supporting their mission. Nonprofits also require the same infrastructure of any corporation including information technology, human resources, accounting, legal services, communication strategists, purchasing and project management along with a dependence on volunteers.
Myth #2: Nonprofit employees spend all their time focused on their cause. The reality is while a nonprofit is not focused on shareholders and stock prices, the organization needs a revenue stream to maintain their programs and services. Fundraising and funding again becomes a focus. Whether the revenue stream comes from the government, businesses, individuals in the community or a mix of these sources, time is required to build and maintain relationships with funders. There are fundraising events to plan, grants to be written and after action reports due explaining to donors how their gifts were utilized. In the nonprofit setting employees wear many hats, so “that’s not my job” is not an appropriate response.
Myth #3: Everyone working for nonprofits is “nice”. As a donor, board member or volunteer people see nonprofit employees at their best. Many employees in the nonprofit sector are passionate, mission-driven individuals focused on their cause, however, all people have their flaws and that’s true in the nonprofit arena as well as corporate America. Work stress and burnout from difficult co-workers, office politics, a poor work environment or negligent leadership happens at nonprofits just like any other organization. The same skill sets used to manage challenging relationships in earlier jobs will help in the nonprofit environment.
Before making the switch from the for-profit world to the nonprofit sector, do your homework to insure the organization you plan to join is legitimate and a good steward of donor contributions. This can be done by consulting resources including www.guidestar.org, or the Better Business Bureau Charity List or Charitynavigator.org.