Why Work for a Nonprofit Organization?

Why Work for a Nonprofit Organization?

There may be a few other benefits of working for nonprofit organizations that you haven’t considered.

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Why Work for a Nonprofit Organization?

Nonprofit organizations are companies that claim to serve the public interest of society in some way without distributing profits to owners or investors. In other words, nonprofit organizations employ paid workers, but all otherwise available funds are utilized to accomplish the nonprofit's goals and objectives.

Although they are not organized for the purpose of creating wealth, nonprofits are big business. According to a 2021 report by Independent Sector (a membership group of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs), there were nearly 1.6 million 501(c) nonprofit organizations in the United States in 2021, and their employees comprised 10 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Many people think nonprofits are mainly charitable organizations that serve disadvantaged groups, such as the economically underprivileged, ill, disabled, and elderly. And indeed there are hundreds of thousands of such organizations throughout the United States. However, the missions of U.S. nonprofit organizations vary greatly, from wildlife conservation to military veteran assistance to arts and entertainment. A 2021 blog article by GoFundMe listed what it called "weird" nonprofit organizations, which included a pet-rescue organization exclusively for neglected guinea pigs, an organization dedicated to helping people overcome the disadvantages of being exceptionally tall, and a group formed to promote Star Wars cosplayers who want to be involved in nonprofit fundraising.

There are lots of good reasons to work for a nonprofit. The main one should be obvious: working for a nonprofit is one of the best ways to dedicate your life to a cause that aligns with your personal values. If you're a passionate animal lover, for example, you can work at a bank during the day and volunteer at an animal shelter by night--or you could just cut to the chase and go to work for an animal shelter. If you're an advocate of open spaces and wilderness, why not work for a public-land advocacy group?

Additionally, there may be a few other benefits of working for nonprofit organizations that you haven't considered. Here's a list of six.

1. Good pay and benefits.  

Here's a quote from a blog article published by the Case Foundation, a nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurship: "It is a common misconception that nonprofits have to settle for only those employees willing to work long hours for low pay. On the contrary, nonprofits often get to choose between the best and the brightest candidates and can afford to be picky about who they choose to employ." It's also true that certain types of nonprofit workers are in very high demand. These include executives with lots of nonprofit management experience, accountants who understand nonprofit bookkeeping, and (perhaps most important of all) those who are highly effective at fundraising. Such nonprofit workers write their own tickets, ask for big salaries, and receive posh benefits.

2. "Other" benefits. 

Career-track jobs should offer "good benefits," such as vacation, retirement plans, insurance, and onsite fitness centers. Nonprofit jobs offer those, too, but with other, less-obvious benefits. These include flexible and generous approaches to time off, working from home, and bringing kids to the office. Some nonprofits offer sabbaticals. Nonprofit workers may also take advantage of their own services, such as education assistance programs, medical and mental health treatment, needs assistance, daycare, etc.

3. The people. 

Unlike the staff of a typical private business, nonprofit staff members usually share at least one interest that is dear to their hearts: the interest or need that the nonprofit organization serves. In other words, if you're passionate about eagles and hawks, for example, and you go to work for a rescue mission that cares for injured raptors, it's almost certain that virtually all of your co-workers will be fellow bird-nerds. Nonprofit workers report that while working for their various causes, they form deep and lasting bonds of camaraderie with their coworkers as well as with the people they serve.

4. Potential for growth, both professional and personal. 

Workers in the United States often separate their professional and personal growth. They advance a career during the workday and develop themselves in other ways when they're at home or traveling. Because nonprofit organizations are often concerned with people in need, urgent objectives, and important causes, personal growth and professional growth go hand-in-hand.

5. Potential for advancement. 

One of the disadvantages of working for nonprofit organizations is that the burn-out rate can be high. Nonprofit workers often join an organization and leave after a short time because of the demands, pressures, frustrations, and high stakes of the work. On the upside, this offers opportunities to advance and "leave your mark" on your nonprofit organization. There are also ample opportunities to shift from one skill set to another. From the above-mentioned article by the Case Foundation: "...nonprofits look to employees to multi-task, and multi-task big time. Because of that, nonprofits offer the opportunity for employees to learn new skills and gain experience in areas they have yet to tackle."

6. The work is challenging and rewarding. 

While many jobs require high levels of innovation, motivation, and dedication, and many jobs are exceedingly challenging, the reward system in the nonprofit sector is very different from that of the private sector. In the private sector, all effort is in support of the company's bottom line. A private business may offer products or services that benefit its customers, clients, and even society, but in the end, success in the private sector is measured by the size of its bank account. When nonprofit workers are successful, on the other hand, it's people, not bank accounts, who benefit, often in very direct, personal, and important ways.