Is the Nonprofit Sector for You?
When you think of working in various sectors, you typically think of the three traditional sectors, which are business, nonprofit and government. According to the fourthsector.net, the definitions of these sectors are as follows:
“Businesses create and distribute goods and services that enhance our quality of life, promote growth and generate prosperity. They spur innovation, reward entrepreneurial effort, provide a return on investment and constantly improve their performance responding to market feedbacks. They draw on the skills and ingenuity of individual workers and share with them the economic value created by the enterprise.
Nonprofit organizations give us ways to celebrate, build and protect the many human values that give rise to healthy, thriving communities. They have worked to ensure that all people have adequate necessities of life, including clean air, water, food and shelter; an equitable share of wealth and resources; and opportunity to develop their full physical, mental and spiritual potential. They create spaces to celebrate the joy of culture and artistic expression, and reveal opportunities for generosity.
Governmental organizations protect and expand the principles of democratic freedom for both individuals and communities, protecting the public interest while at the same time ensuring a level playing field of opportunity and a common framework of laws and their enforcement at a scale that matches the scale of human activity. They have been granted, or they have presumed, the responsibility to provide for the common security and to make decisions to promote the best interest of society.”
fourthsector.net also notes that throughout the past few decades, the boundaries between government (public), business (private) and nonprofit (social) have been blurring together, as many pioneering organizations have been blending social and environmental aims with business approaches. There are many expressions of this trend, which include corporate social responsibility, microfinance, venture philanthropy, social enterprise, community development and more. This blurring could evolve to create a fourth sector.
In the blog post, “9 Skills for Success in Corporate Sustainability Leadership,” the following core skills are needed for success in corporate responsibility:
- Be flexible like Gumby and curious like George.
- Hold on to your core competency while learning new skills.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Lead through influence.
- Read the system.
- Learn and practice “corporate Jujutsu.”
- Be entrepreneurial.
- Pay attention to detail, discipline, quality and results.
- Above all, passion for the cause.
In the blog post, “Reasons You’ll Love Working in the Public Sector,” it says that the public sector is controlled by government and in the U.K. alone, more than 5.4 million employees work in this sector. They point out seven reasons why public-sector employment may be right for you:
- Making a Difference in service for all.
- Flexibility in working hours based upon your needs.
- Training on a going basis to learn new skills.
- Stability in having a job for the long term.
- Salaries can be surprisingly competitive.
- Atmosphere that is less demanding on long hours and profits.
- Benefits wide in scope and appeal to employees.
In the article, “Why Work for a Nonprofit? Understanding the Advantages of these Organizations,” it states that employees usually make less in salary than their for-profit counterparts. With that said, major positive reasons for considering working in the nonprofit sector include:
- Purpose that is profound and you can see human lives radically transformed.
- Variety of tasks as you will gain hands-on experience in many areas.
- Work environment that is unique and co-workers embrace cross-purposes with a mission.
- Meet many purpose-driven people that you will eventually bond and grow with over time.
If you have worked in any sector for a length of time, then there may be times you might have a desire to switch sectors. Whether the sector is business (private), government (public) or nonprofit (social), there are specific attributes to each sector that you should consider. Having primarily worked in the nonprofit sector for my entire career, at the midpoint of my career, I hired a career consultant at a sizable fee to help me determine my best sector fit. I took tests, interviewed with many people in each sector and did a deep dive analysis of my personal attributes. After several months of an in-depth process, the results were in. The sector that I was considering leaving was the one I was most suited for and the one I that I am still in today.
Is the nonprofit sector for you? If you have any doubts, do some soul-searching and due diligence. At the end of the day, I care passionately to help others, and I am purpose-driven. It is about making a difference. I bet that is also why you continue your career in this field. Even if we have not met we are brothers and sisters seeking to promote society in our own positive way. That is what makes our sector special.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, IN plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.