Working for Non-Profits: Dispelling the Myths


Once Upon a TimeThere are many misconceptions when it comes to non-profits and how they operate. What it is like to work for a non-profit is one aspect which seems to have a plethora of myths surrounding it. Many people think that non-profits have no employees, just volunteers. These misconstrued notions can draw some passionate candidates away from the non-profit sector. Let’s delve into some of these myths and unearth what it truly is like to work at a non-profit.

  1. Non-profits are run only by volunteers; they have no paid employees: Though volunteers are an integral part of non-profits they are certainly not the whole picture. Organizations large and small still have day-to-day tasks that need to be addressed. The volunteer pool will likely always be bigger than the amount of paid employees, but by no means are non-profits solely run by volunteers.
  2. Non-profits do not pay well: The myth that non-profits do not make a profit plays into this one. The truth is these organizations do make profits, though most of their gains go towards helping others, employees are also taken care of. It is true that the salaries may be lower than similar positions in for-profit jobs, however, value is added elsewhere. The work/life balance and flexibility offered by most organizations can many times make up for the slight pay gap.
  3. Non-profits are where people who couldn’t make it in the “real world” go to work: In my experience, those working in the non-profit sector are just as intelligent and driven as those in the business world. Many of these individuals need to interact with business leaders and make business decisions. Just because they work for a charitable organization doesn’t mean someone is lazy.
  4. Non-profits provide no upward mobility: Many people assume that non-profits have a flat structure and there is no way to advance in a career there. Though in some organizations there will not be as many options when it comes to upward movement, this does not mean there is no chance for growth. Many times young people see advancement and leadership roles earlier in the non-profit sector than they would in the business world.
  5. Non-profits are very political: Some of the initiatives of these organizations may require some political aspect such as lobbying for certain legislation or for grants to help advance a program. What non-profits do not do is require a specific political party affiliation.

Take it from me, working at a non-profit can be extremely rewarding. It may not be glamorous or exciting; some days it can be challenging. When you think about it though, are jobs in other sectors any different? I’m sure sometimes Princess Kate is bored being a royal. If you are thinking about a non-profit career, don’t let myths steer you away from what could be a great opportunity.

Do you have any other questions about what it is like to work for a non-profit? Let us know. We’d love to talk to you about it!

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