This is a guest article by Flexo from Consumerism Commentary. Flexo is currently on a ten-day, ten-venue tour.
“It ain’t the money.”
I started my career out of college working for a non-profit organization involved with the arts. Yes, after graduation, I took myself and my thousands of dollars of student loan debt and walked away, at least temporarily, from the career my education and certification would have otherwise directed me: teaching. I wasn’t exactly clued into personal finance at the time, so I made some mistakes with my money and my life decisions.
Although I ended up leaving my non-profit aspirations behind after years of mismanaging my finances, I would be in a better position to return now. I’m a fan of the benefits that non-profits provide for communities and for their employees, and working for a non-profit can be a great starting point for any career — or life.
The one drawback is, of course, they don’t typically pay well. But even that can be interpreted as an advantage.
1. Non-profits force you to focus on your personal finances. I failed at this until reality kicked in, but a job at the lowest end of the salary scale should make you consciously consider your money situation. This is an opportunity to be forced into several good habits that, while even if abandoned when cash flow improves in the future, will continue to underlie your philosophy and relationship with money.
Low income will force you to learn budgeting techniques as well as to track your expenses. You will discover how to live on less money than your friends.
2. You will learn the meaning of hard work. While there are some exceptions, most non-profit organizations do not have the resources to comfortable achieve their missions. A lack of resources like capital and staff requires everyone to pitch in more. In my experience with the non-profit where I worked, even with hundreds of un-paid volunteers, the organization’s staff of ten worked 80 to 100 hours a week during some parts of the year.
3. You will broaden your skills with multiple responsibilities. In addition to long hours, you may find that your responsibilities include more than just one function. In my ten-person office, we each had multiple responsibilities simply because there weren’t enough people for everyone to be a “specialist.”
For example, my primary function was to run an educational program for 30,000 high school students across hundreds of high schools, but I also maintained the organization’s frequently-updated website, manned the customer service telephone line for the teachers we supported, provided hardware and software technical support to the other staff, functioned as a network administrator, planned and managed events, shuttled volunteers from airports to event sites, and designed our operations-related databases.
4. Meet talented and passionate people. While working for a non-profit, you will have the opportunity to surround yourself with some of the most amazing people you will ever know. One way of improving yourself is to seek the company of people who are the best in the world. Get to know the people who sit on the organization’s Board of Directors because they share the same goals and often bridge the gap to the for-profit world.
5. Doing what you love will keep you motivated. If you love your job, it won’t feel like work. That will be a great benefit when you will be spending most of your waking life for the benefit of the non-profit. If you align your occupation with something you are passionate about, your performance on the job will be better than if you were to work in a corporation without passion.
6. You can change the world. For a corporation, particularly a public company beholden to shareholders, your job always boils down to increasing the company’s bottom line. There is little personal reward in that goal, so corporations make up for this by offering salaries, bonuses, stock options, and a slate of other benefits. In a non-profit organization, you are also “paid” by the satisfaction of doing something good for the world’s benefit, whether it is saving lives, reducing poverty, making education affordable, bringing enrichment opportunities to children, or some other worthy cause.
Working for a non-profit organization isn’t for everyone, but it also isn’t only for the rich who have little need to build wealth for their family. You can have a comfortable and rewarding life, and you can build wealth, by working for a non-profit.