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Working For Nonprofit Organizations

The Grind: Should You Work For a Nonprofit?

If you've been struggling with your company's bottom line and would prefer to spend your time working with a company whose values speak to yours then nonprofit organizations could be an appealing option for you. Students should take advantage of internships at nonprofits to get a good idea of how they operate, but if you're contemplating a career change then you don't have the flexibility in your schedule to experiment with something new. If you're considering making a career change from for-profit companies to the very different world of nonprofits then the New York Times Career Coach has some very thoughtful tips for what you need to consider before making this kind of career change. To see what they are just


  • Figure out your bottom line: Analyze why you're drawn to nonprofit work as a career and not as a volunteer. Figure out what type of organization you want to work for, what kind of position you want, and the reason behind it.
  • Salary: Nonprofit salaries vary depending on location and budget, but they're generally lower than those at for-profit companies.
  • Finding the right nonprofit for you: Transition is easiest when you move to a nonprofit that has a similar focus to your current industry, but if you're looking for a big change then look into groups financed by your local United Way chapter or contact your Chamber of Commerce for a list of nonprofits.
  • Revamp your résumé: Showcase your skills, not your job title in order to translate your experience into what the nonprofit world needs. Mention your volunteer experience to show how you've been preparing for the transition.
  • Don't fool yourself: The nonprofit world often comes with longer hours and more stress than in the corporate world.


Join The Conversation
parapa parapa 9 years
I also work for a non-profit. It is small, only a handful of employees, and very family-like. The advantages FAR outweigh the disadvantages. I enjoy a usually friendly atmosphere, great interaction with clients, and I get to meet a broad spectrum of people. We serve the very poor, and we get money from the very rich, and let's not forget all the politicians that come in and out to "help" us with funding. These guys do a great job getting us state and local funds AND it doesn't hurt their political aspirations to be seen as philanthropists. There are drawbacks though. The pay is the pits. I mean it is really bad here where I live. Someone with my experience would make over $5,000 a year more than what I make. And let's not forget the management issues. Technically you work for a board of directors, but those directors usually have NO idea what the executive director is really doing. When things go wrong, and they can, with workplace issues (sexual harrassment, pay issues, even time spent doing things that are not work related) getting anyone to actually do something about it is difficult. No one wants to take responsibility, or at least that has been my experience. Overall, I love working for a non-profit. It is enjoyable, rewarding and does so much good for the community. Having a hands on job with a non-profit is the best job. You can't beat the warm fuzzy feeling you get when someone who came into your office with nothing to hope for leaves knowing that people care about them and are willing to do anything to help them.
Baby-Girl Baby-Girl 9 years
I work for a nonprofit - a university. And this environment is very corporate. There's a lot of politics and nepotism (board members nieces with no experience who keeps moving up), but we're nonprofit. The plus is the areas to work in: accounting, student relations, IRT, fund raising, legal, public relations, and internal auditing. There's something for every professional background and you can get free tuition for yourself and your kids after a few years.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
You have to have more than just idealism to spur you on when you work for a nonprofit, because you'll burn out real fast. You have be self-motivated, driven and truly believe in the cause. It's certainly jarring to be working in a standard office environment, but you've got to keep in mind that it doesn't mean nothing's happening out there in the field as a result of your work in the office. Quite the opposite, in fact. I've done extensive work (volunteer, internships, for pay) for a whole variety of nonprofit organizations. There were major corporate ones that squandered money shamelessly and small ones that could never get anything done at all. Truly effective and good management is a little bit harder to find in the nonprofit world, I've found. I've NEVER had a mean boss - they've always been very considerate and wonderful to their employees. But it seems a lot of them get so focused on policy and their vision for the cause, that they forget to actually run the organization. For that reason, I believe in running a nonprofit like a for-profit (within reason), but the additional profits should only directly benefit the cause. The issue for me has been getting INTO the nonprofit business as a career woman. I can't afford to live on minimum wage, but there's still a few np jobs out there that understand this and offer adequate salaries. There are very few nonprofit organizations in my area, so I had to settle for a for-profit job. In order for me to move on, I'll need to find a job in a different city/state. I've found that the competition for a lot of np jobs are pretty fierce! Getting a job in a different state (where I can't readily pop on over for an interview) makes things even more difficult for me too.
princessjaslew princessjaslew 9 years
i think no matter where you work, its gotta be a place you like and in a field you enjoy. Even for-profit companies these days organize volunteer activities because they are beginning to realise that is one way of keeping their employees happy. and contented.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 9 years
I interviewed for many non-profit jobs a few years ago. Some of them weren't really up my alley and others sounded like they could've been my dream job. Unfortunately, the salaries they offered were horribly low and I couldn't accept any of them. I did work for a non-profit for one week, a long time ago, as the administrative assistant to the director. But she was a shrill, horrible woman and I quit after a week. It was a shame, because I really believed in and respected the organization itself.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
It actually depends on the non-profit. The bigger the non-profit, the more corporate it is. I worked for a non-profit for more than 3 years and they were all about the money which went to a great cause; however, they were more corporate than any non-profit I ever worked for.
Arielrb38 Arielrb38 9 years
I would encourage anyone, but especially a recent grad to read this article from the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago. I have worked in non-profits since graduating from college, and I can tell you there are great places out there, and there are less than great places. Be sure that you go into a non-profit, especially a large one, knowing that it is a job and it will be run like a for-profit company (or as I recently heard "just because we're non-profit doesn't mean we can't make money"). There is often a gulf between on-the-ground mission and what is happening in the office, make sure that is something that you are going into with eyes open. There is little quite as heartbreaking as watching a young person's idealism fade away as they realize that the organization for which they brought all of their passion and commitment is really just another job, with a bottom line, a hierarchy, and all of the unpleasantness of any office. I hate to discourage people from working in non-profits, I hope that the majority of people experience the resume building experience that the earlier commenter described. My advice? If you can get an internship. If you can't, consider volunteering once a week. You will get a good feel for the organization, and the environment. You can also tell a lot about how an organization will treat its employees by how it treats its volunteers. I
Taadie Taadie 9 years
I have worked with nonprofits since I graduated college. Its fantastic experience and its certainly not as cutthroat as Ive heard corporate is but the hours are looooooooooooooooooooong. Sometimes I work 7 days a week with no overtime and making less in general. Its worth it for what youre working for and there are definitely perks (in low season sometimes only work 3 days a week, almost unlimited vacation days, fantastic team work ethic) but the biggest drawback is the lack of money.
phatE phatE 9 years
I have only worked at non-profits since college and I agree.. get ready for more work, low pay, longer hours, and an under staffed environment.. Also look at it as fund raising [no matter what your title is] because that will be a huge party of any position.. speaking of position, also be prepared to do alot more than what you signed on for.. When only a handful of people work together, everyone does everything.. From graphics, copying, mailing, clerical, basically anything you can imagine... While it kind of sucks sometimes, there is so much value to learning the ropes in every area.. You also get to do things that you wouldn't have the opportunity to touch in a larger company.. You can gain more experience really quick, as opposed to someone who is hired with a specific purpose and doesn't have the freedom to do things outside of it.. Bottom line, I have loved gaining the experience I have.. I have had SO many opportunities to do things I wouldn't have ever had the chance of doing in another work place.. I have a BA in Psyc, and so it's limited.. But with the experience and opportunities that I have gained from working in non-profits, I have jumped ahead, and fattened up my resume in a short period of time.. I am all over the place but bottom line, if you can afford to take a pay cut, or you are just graduating, take a look at non-profits.. It's amazing working for something you truly believe in, and it will open SO many other doors..
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