Kurt Aschermann, president and chief operating officer of Charity Partners, pointed out to the TheNonProfitTimes recently that there are some things potential employees seeking work in the nonprofit world might not think of when they are considering a sector change.
Aschermann suggests that both job seekers and nonprofit employers make sure that they understand and/or explain these common, but often overlooked differences between for-profit and nonprofit careers.
- Hours. Nonprofit hours don't always fit a business template. Fundraisers may need to seek out potential donors in the evening or on the weekend. Special events, fundraising or program-related, may need to be staffed during "off-hours," on weekends, or even on holidays. Fulfilling a social mission is not like selling a product during specified "open" hours.
- Budgets that are often not even adequate, much less luxurious. Effective use of every dollar is typical of nonprofit work. Seeking inkind gifts might mean using a supplier that is not the preferred one; having to make do with out-of-date office furniture, or even computers, is more often the norm than the exception. Flexibility and a frugal eye are important for most nonprofit groups.
- Reaching agreement within a group. Nonprofits depend much more heavily on consensus to reach decisions. Working with volunteers is very different than working with paid staff, for instance. Nonprofits tend to be more open, democratic, and process driven than companies that deal with products and customers.
- Dealing with multiple audiences. Aschermann points out that people working in for-profit are accustomed to one audience -- people who are potential purchasers and users of the product that is being marketed.
But in nonprofit, there are multiple audiences with unusual relationships with the organization. A donor often is not the consumer of the service or product, for instance. Volunteers often do the work of paid staff, but enjoy a very different relationship with the nonprofit. The people who actually consume the nonprofit service or product vary widely, and may be motivated in ways that are difficult to understand.
Such differences can represent a mine-field for an employee coming from the for-profit world. Potential nonprofit hires deserve to know as much as possible about the world they are entering before they make the leap.
Job seekers can help by doing their research, engaging in many informational interviews with people who work in the sector, serving as a volunteer first, or getting an internship.
Nonprofit employers need to explore all of these issues with a job candidate to make sure that he or she is fully aware of the differences between for-profit and nonprofit work.