Three Busted Myths About a Career in Nonprofit Work

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Working in the nonprofit sector is an awesome way to use your talents to change the world. On top of the warm fuzzies, nonprofit jobs often involve wearing several hats, giving you a greater opportunity to expand your skill set than you’d have in the rigid role-driven corporate world. It gives you unlimited room for creativity and unconventional problem solving. It’s a good way to get a foot in the door in a job title that would be more competitive in the for-profit sector.

Many talented people who have a heart for nonprofit work are discouraged from applying for a nonprofit job that they would excel at because of the perpetuated stigma that nonprofit work is a dead-end career move. Many similar stigmas are misconceptions that prevent professionals from having a rewarding career that benefits both their own life and the greater good. Let’s explore some common nonprofit myths and sort out fact from fiction:

  1. MYTH: It’s hard to make a living on a non profit salary.
    The “non profit” part of the non profit sector relates to the 501(C)3 tax exempt code by the IRS, that ensures that profits (after expenses and salaries) are used to serve the mission of the organization. Non profit salaries are generally competitive with their for profit counterparts. In fact, non profit salaries account for nearly 10% of the total wages and income earned by Americans, across every industry. For example, in 2010, the total income for all Americans was $12.3 billion, and over $1.1 billion of that was made of non profit salaries, that non profit employees made a living from.
  2. There’s no upward mobility in the non profit sector.
    Sometimes people view leaving a corporate job to take a non profit job as somewhat of a sabbatical from a career plan. When you decide to rejoin the productive workforce, you will have to pick up where you left off. However, working in the nonprofit sector may actually give your greater opportunities to expand your skill set and diversify your experience than working in the for-profit sector. If you ever decided to rejoin the for-profit industry, you might find that you have greater advantages to move forward in your career than if you hadn’t worked in non profit at all. Additionally, the non profit sector often gives younger, “greener” employees leadership and managerial responsibilities that they’d have trouble getting in the for-profit world.
  3. Working in a nonprofit means you get a rundown office and with coworkers wearing pajamas.
    There are some non profit organizations that channel all of their resources into their cause, at the sacrifice of their facilities. This is the case in the for-profit sector as well. In reality, many huge, sleek hospitals and million-dollar institutions are non profits that require the same level of professionalism that you’d find in the business world. Just like the for-profit sector, the level of professionalism that jobs at non profit organizations require varies from one group to the next. If it’s a dealbreaker for you, find a non profit with the level of professionalism you want to uphold.

Do you work in the non profit sector? What do you find the greatest difference is between your work and that in the for profit world? We want to hear both the pros and cons of working for a non profit!

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