Working at a nonprofit means you'll likely enjoy the freedom to wear many professional hats.
While it is common for graduate students to move on to high-powered careers in for-profit industries, an increasing number of young professionals are opting to pursue careers in the nonprofit sector. This is unsurprising: Millennials, as a generation, are overwhelmingly interested in philanthropy and serving communities in need. As reported by Forbes, citing a Deloitte survey, a notable majority of millennials – some 63 percent, to be precise – routinely give money to charitable organizations, and a sizeable minority – around 43 percent – contribute to charity-based groups through membership, volunteer work or both.
If you're a recent advanced degree graduate looking for an exciting and rewarding career path, choosing a role in the nonprofit sector could well be the best move for you. Still not convinced? Read on to learn more about some of the reasons to consider a nonprofit career.
What is a nonprofit?
Before an examination of some of the compelling reasons to join a nonprofit, it is helpful to take a closer look at what a nonprofit actually is, and dispel some myths in the process. As explained by U.S. News & World Report, when an organization operates to either help a charitable cause, serve the community, disseminate education or work in some other capacity to help people, it is generally understood as a nonprofit. The term, conspicuously, refers to the fact that these groups do not operate to make money for owners or investors. There are nonprofits dedicated to an array of causes, from scientific research, to urban development and tackling poverty abroad. Nonprofits can also be political or religious in nature.
A common myth is that nonprofits are unable to pay their employees. While it may be true that some smaller nonprofits rely on the generosity of volunteers, many nonprofit organizations employ workers in a range of positions, U.S. News & World Report noted. Examples of common roles within nonprofit organizations include fundraising, communications, web design, social media management and so on. Roles will of course vary, contingent on the size of the organization and the scope of its interests.
"There are nonprofits dedicated to an array of causes."
Reasons to pursue a nonprofit career
As detailed, there are a number of reasons why pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector, upon graduation from your advanced degree program, could be a good move. They include:
1. The ability to work in a range of areas
Nonprofits are much more likely to ask staff members to work on multiple projects across a range of departments, writer Rebecca Andruszka explained, contributing to online publication The Muse. The reason for this is primarily staffing levels – most nonprofit organizations need more help and experience problems with understaffing, so it's common practice within these groups for employees to help out in departments that they do not necessarily work in. For example, you may be assigned to the communications department but might be called on to assist with a fundraising project, or if your boss is away you may be asked to reach out to contacts and network. In essence, nonprofits are typically places where you can find yourself wearing many hats and acquiring a whole host of marketable skills.
2. Gaining a sense of purpose through work
While it is true that the nonprofit sector perhaps cannot provide the kinds of lucrative salaries found at for-profit companies, working for a nonprofit will likely enable you to find deep personal satisfaction in your work, as you'll be making a positive and tangible difference to other people's lives, Rasmussen College asserted. Indeed, the source included a quote from the admissions director of Discovery Place, Bill Dinker, who elaborated on this important point.
"You have to be willing to trade financial gain for seeing human lives radically transformed," he explained. "Not many are willing to make that trade. But the ones that do receive a sense of purpose beyond words."
3. Having the option to move up the career ladder
Just because nonprofits are not concerned with the bottom line doesn't mean that there isn't room to get promoted and climb the career ladder. As detailed by The Case Foundation, given that nonprofits often require workers to help in different areas, the myriad skills you will likely acquire will make you more marketable and able to climb the career ladder, either within the organization you start out at or elsewhere.