February 13, 2023

Working for Not-For-Profit Organizations

Searching for a job that creates a deep purpose in your life? Many job seekers looking to make a difference turn to working for a not-for-profit organization. There are 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in America and a majority of companies are classified in this category.

What is a not-for-profit organization?

A nonprofit organization qualifies for tax-exempt status by the IRS because its mission and purpose are to further a social cause and provide a public benefit. There are also nonprofit organizations that include hospitals, universities, national charities, and foundations.

Similar to a nonprofit, a not-for-profit organization does not earn profit for its owners. All money earned through pursuing business activities or through donations goes right back into running the organization.

Learn more about the difference between a nonprofit and a not-for-profit here: https://www.uschamber.com/co/start/strategy/nonprofit-vs-not-for-profit-vs-for-profit

Why should someone work for a not-for-profit (NFP) organization?

There are several reasons why you should work for a NFP. For example, you can truly make a difference for a cause that is near to your heart, making your work feel fulfilling and meaningful. Here are a few other benefits working for a not-for-profit organization:

a.    There’s room to work on multiple projects within different departments and wear multiple hats. This is beneficial to your career advancement because you have room to learn and grow in an accelerated position. For example, a NFP may not have the budget to have a full time development person as well as a communications department. In a development role, you may have the opportunity to create annual appeals, year-end impact reports, and trying your hand at designing other marketing material. This is a great way that you can develop several skills and expand your toolkit.  

b.    The culture is typically strong and positive because colleagues are working toward the same goal for the organization. NFP’s tend to have some of the most dedicated, resilient, creative people on staff.

c.     The dress code and atmosphere tend to be laid back rather than the typical corporate environment. You could have casual Friday every day! Additionally, NFP’s have been moving toward a hybrid or remote setting to save on brick-and-mortar locations.

d.    Benefits are usually better or more competitive than they are at typical corporate jobs. Some not-for-profit benefits we’ve seen include more time off, tuition reimbursement, and student loan forgiveness.

e.    There are incredible networking opportunities because NFP’s Board of Directors typically consists of the “best” leaders in the community. The key players on the Board tend to be influential people that have a lot of connections in the community. You can learn from them while expanding your professional network.


What are the main differences between working for an NFP versus a for-profit company or organization?

The main differences between a not-for-profit and a for-profit are their missions, goals, products vs services, budget, and benefits. With the companies having different financial objectives for each, there’s going to be a different view on everything.

What are the skills that NFP organizations look for in employees?

Not-for-profit organizations are focused on their mission and strive to make a difference with everything that they do. When searching for people to work for them whether it’s in operations, finance, development, HR, or any other department, they want someone who is mission focused. If their employees are resourceful, creative, positive, and team players then that contributes towards their goals or creates a positive impact. If someone is just looking for a job and isn’t passionate about the organization then the probability of them staying at the organization is slim because they won’t feel fulfilled in their work each day. Additionally, most NFP’s are operating on a tighter budget, which means less staff and sometimes resources. Ideal employees enjoy a variety of work and thinking outside of the box.

Working for an NFP has the perception that you will have fewer benefits and a lower salary. How do you weigh the pros and cons?

While the salary tends to be lower when working for a not-for-profit, the benefits are typically better. Many people don’t get into this work for the money but rather for the mission of the organization. Those individuals are looking to make a difference and in turn receive great benefits such as more flexibility, more vacation time, and good healthcare. Employees should ask themselves what’s more important for them in their career before making the jump to working for a not-for-profit. For example, assessing if you value more time with family or more money will help point you toward the industry that could be a better fit. You may also want to consider if you like your hands in multiple projects or if you enjoy focusing on one area.  Looking at some of these questions when searching for your next role is key to choosing your next career move.

General advice for someone who is seeking a role at an NFP.

If you’re looking to make the jump to working for a not-for-profit, you need to do research! Making the move from a for-profit company to a not-for-profit organization can be a bit of a culture shock at first. Interviewing employees at the organizations you’re interested in working at is a great way to understand if it will be the right fit. Take the opportunity to ask them what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would change. Seeking out volunteer opportunities at one of the organizations to get your feet wet can also be a great introduction. And finally, making a list of what you value and what you prioritize in your life will show you what path you’re meant to go down. Seeking out a new career opportunity is both exciting and stressful but by researching what is available and complimentary to your lifestyle and passion, you will land the perfect position!

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