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Charity: what it’s really like to work for a not-for-profit organisation

by OCAdmin

Have you ever wanted to work for an employer that does not operate for profit but instead functions to help make the world a better place? Then a career in the ‘not-for-profit’ (NFP) sector may be perfect for you!

But what is it like to actually work in a NFP? Here we speak to three people who work in the not for profit sector to find out.

Mike in disability

Mike works in the IT department of a NFP within the disability sector.

“The main difference between working for a NFP organisation and a traditional ‘for profit’ organisation is personal and corporate motivation,” he said.

“In the commercial sector, as long as what you do contributes to the bottom line (and does not break any laws), you’re okay. But in a NFP, the benchmarks are not as clear. KPIs (key performance indicators) revolve around saving money (or not spending as much) and complying with statutory regulations.

“On the whole my experience has been a positive one. As NFPs generally exist to do good in the community, supporting people and even supporting people who support people, it is a rewarding way to make a living,” he added.

Leila in NFP disaster response

Leila works for a global not-for-profit that works in disaster response and preparedness, food security, animal protection and sustainability.

“I love my job. I get up every morning filled with purpose, passion and determination. I work in an environment that is always changing, urgent and exciting. I am never bored. Every day I am inspired by ‘world changers’ and humbled by the resilience of the human spirit. I get to be creative and critical. For me it’s the perfect balance,” she said.

“When I compare my work experience to that of friends and family, I think the biggest difference is that my job is so connected to who I am. It is central to my values and how I live my life. If you were to ask me ‘who are you?’ the first thing I would say is ‘I am an advocate’.

“I don’t know anyone who works in the corporate sector that feels so connected on a personal level to their position or their job.

“My workplace is very flexible – I can work from home or the beach as long as the work gets done. There are lots of benefits, for example, my workplace provides yoga lessons, has a soccer team and we have regular team bonding sessions. Because of the nature of our work and the long periods of time we go without our families when travelling, your colleagues become your friends and are a huge support network,” she added.

Lyndal in the Cancer Council

Lyndal works for the Cancer Council NSW.

“My role is very much public health research and advocacy, trying to help shape policy to support healthy lifestyles,” she said.

“For me, the biggest difference between working for a NFP and a regular business is that I feel like I’m part of something bigger; something that makes a difference.

“My experience in NFPs is that they’re forced, due to shoestring budgets, to be innovative and approach work in a strategic manner, which I love. I also think the work-life balance is much easier to achieve, especially at the Cancer Council because we’re a health-based charity”.

“Of course there are some cons, NFPs often have lower wages; restricted budgets and outdated technology. We don’t ‘get’ a lot from our employer, for example, we pay for our own Christmas party.

“On the flip side, I get great professional development opportunities; we can access salary packaging and other employee benefits (such as reduced gym memberships) and we have quite flexible leave arrangements. Work-life balance is also very good.

“I really enjoy going to work and feeling like I am making a difference. Plus, the people I work with are committed, enthusiastic and generally wonderful!,” she added.

If you want to make a difference in your career and in the lives of others, working in the not-for-profit sector is a great way to do it. It can allow you to get close to a cause you really truly care about and make a real difference in the world.

To read an extended version of this article, click here.

Inspired to move into the NFP sector?

An Open Colleges course can equip you with the skills to jump into a new position with a fantastic NFP organisation, and with over 100 courses to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect qualification to help you reach your goals! Learn more here.

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