How to Work for a Non-Profit Organization ... and Why
Non-profit organizations have reputations for being run solely by volunteers or low-paid workers who must wade through mountains of paperwork, fueled only by their devotion to a particular cause.
Whether your passion is children, the environment, health care … you name it … there's a non-profit that needs your help.
Well, while some non-profits are, in fact, powered largely by volunteers, many are not. And though salaries may be lower in a non-profit organization, they're not always … and the benefits are almost assuredly better than you'll find working for any for-profit company around.
Why Work for a Non-Profit Organization?
Non-profits bring in $670 billion annually, according to Joanne Fritz, Ph.D., an About.com guide to nonprofit charitable organizations. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Meanwhile one in 12 Americans work for a non-profit, according to Fritz. Clearly, they know something that most of us don't. Working for a non-profit can be not only rewarding but, ironically, profitable for you in a variety of ways.
Employees of non-profit organizations usually receive attractive benefits, including generous vacation time, sick days, flexible schedules, low premiums on heath insurance, tuition reimbursement, and excellent retirement plans.
You may gain access to special facilities and services, such as university gyms and libraries, and credit unions that offer guaranteed low-interest loans.
Base salaries at large non-profits are usually competitive with similar jobs at for-profit corporations.
You get to work for a good cause, feel passionate about what you're doing, and make the world a better place. That is the general point of a non-profit, after all.
You'll make good contacts. CEOs of large corporations are often on the board of directors of non-profits. You'll also likely get to work with the leaders in your community, attending joint board meetings and such.
You can learn a lot. Working at a non-profit means your job position will likely stretch beyond the typical boundaries. You'll get to "wear many hats" and plunge right into activities that you otherwise would only read about.
You can enjoy a positive work environment. Generally speaking, non-profit work environments tend to look out for individuals and families more so than your average corporation.
Why NOT Work for a Non-Profit?
Now that we've listed all of the benefits, there are some downsides to working for a non-profit. For one thing, there are no stock options to own, and bonuses are not usually given out. If you're largely driven by money, a non-profit may not be right for you.
You should also feel relatively strongly about the non-profit cause you're considering working for. You'll be fully immersed in this cause day-in and day-out, not to mention working with a group of people who have dedicated their lives to said mission. If you're not that keen on saving greyhounds from the racetracks or helping the Girl Scouts recruit new young members, it's best to take a pass.
How to Get Into a Non-Profit Career
A great way to find work with a nonprofit is to first volunteer there.
The rule of the job-search game are slightly different when it comes to looking for work in the non-profit sector. Rule number one, according to Fritz, is to identify an area you're passionate about.
"You will be a much more desirable job candidate if you speak passionately about your desire to work in this particular nonprofit," she writes on About.com.
Next Fritz recommends doing what she calls an "informational interview." On other words, contact the non-profit you're interested in and ask to meet for an informational information. Even though you're only meeting to find out some information (come prepared with questions), the "interview" may lead to a job offer, particularly if you remember to send a thank you note afterward.
If you're really serious about a particular non-profit, volunteering is an excellent way to get your foot in the door. Not only does this allow you to "test drive" the organization to make sure it's a good fit, you'll be the first to know when a new job opportunity arises.
Fortunately, the Internet is also a simple way to start your non-profit job search. The following sites are loaded with job openings in the non-profit sector, in a variety of interest areas and locations across the country:
How to Find Your Dream Career: 11 Key Steps
The 10 Best Careers -- By Starting Salary, Best Benefits, Job Satisfaction & More
About.com: Top 7 Tips for Getting Your Dream Nonprofit Job
About.com: Top 5 Reasons to Work at a Nonprofit