In a nonprofit organization, the mission, not the profit is the driving force behind the organization. Many of the smaller nonprofit organizations usually also have a founder’s leadership and vision to keep in mind, fiscal constraints and fewer opportunities for career advancement simply due to their size. To many these conditions may be perceived as a negative, but this is what makes nonprofits excellent training grounds for millennials, women and/or sector switchers who want to add some skills to their career toolbox, or advance to a leadership role.
There are always LOTS of tasks and roles that need to be filled and completed. However, there is often not enough human capacity on staff or someone with the right skills to get the job done. This is a great opportunity for a staff person to stretch their skills, volunteers to assist, a consultant to be hired and/or for someone to get some valuable hands on training in that area to ensure that the organization is able to get the work done. I truly attribute my many talents to working in the nonprofit sector and having to learn on the job or during a time where we did not have enough hands on deck to do things I never thought I’d ever have the chance to do (or want to do for that matter) and glad I had the opportunity.
Although there are numerous measurements of success in the nonprofit sector, they do not solely focus on revenues and profits, which characterize the business sector. Your P&L doesn’t necessarily define success in the nonprofit sector unless you stay in a financial role such as a CFO, Budget Director or a fundraising role like a Director of Development or Membership Manager. So, if these kinds of roles with fiduciary responsibility are not what you are looking for, but you are someone who has continually succeeded based on profit margin, you would need to adjust to a new way of measuring your success in your new role.
Also, many nonprofits are typically resource constrained or the funding is for specific programs, departments or events. This phenomenon can have an impact on management’s ability to implement change as well as increase compensation. With fewer income sources, and no margin of profitability, the trickle-down effect on your salary might not be as frequent nor be as lucrative, but there are still ways to get a raise in the nonprofit sector or demand other things, like more time off, etc. However, there are plenty of nonprofit organizations and positions that are quite lucrative. Most national organizations, foundations, colleges, universities, hospitals and specific areas of need such as health, environment, etc. tend to have better funding. This allows for more competitive salaries, career advancement and longevity within the nonprofit sector.
The nonprofit sector tends to be more process oriented and consensus driven than the private sector, both of which can slow decision making. This can be frustrating for someone who is used to better-defined structure. However, with often less decision makers, the process can also be quicker or a decision YOU might be empowered to make for the organization in the role you play. In the corporate world, the pyramid-like organization seems like the process can quicken decision-making and implementation, but often has many more layers of bureaucracy to get through before a decision is made. Clearly, this also depends on your role and place in the hierarchy of leadership where you work, no matter the sector.