Should Working in Nonprofits be a Viable Career?

The short answer is of course yes, as evidenced by the sector’s 12.3 million US jobs (BLS, 2016). My question refers more to how working for mission-based organizations is currently perceived and why it may be the right time for a shift in perspective.

There are really two kinds of people when it comes to philanthropy: There are those who choose to donate to causes they care about by contributing money they’ve earned through their work (working to give), and there are those who choose to dedicate their life to effecting change by working for nonprofits (giving through work). Both are valuable choices, right?

Businesses need staff

There are smart, hardworking, talented people who choose to work for big companies and earn six-figure salaries. If they are philanthropic, they select causes and donate (hopefully generously) to help make it possible for those organizations to do the good work they do.

The nonprofit sector is full of great causes with people who choose to dedicate their lives to effecting change. These individuals work directly for organizations that were created to make a specific difference in the world. We would all agree that without these people the change would not be possible, right? So don’t we also agree that the nonprofit sector needs smart, hardworking, talented people?

Nonprofits ARE businesses

We expect nonprofits to be run and managed well. This requires a team of skilled workers. To find and retain good people in big business is much like finding and retaining good people in nonprofits, and outcomes are usually better when we place value on those positions and pay decent salaries.

The question we need to ask is this: if we want successful nonprofits, run well by a talented team of experts, do we want the positions filled by people who are just taking the work because they couldn’t get a “real” job in big business?  Or, do we prefer to find individuals who have excellent skills, are uniquely qualified for the work, AND have a passion for the nonprofit sector? I’m confident the donors, funders, and whoever the nonprofit serves will be glad those individuals made the choice to work in nonprofits, and so should we. 

Should working in nonprofits be a viable career?

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