14 Pros and Cons of Working for a Nonprofit Organization

Nonprofit Organization

If spending your days assisting others for an enthusiastic cause sound like an amazing job, then working in the nonprofit sector may be an excellent career path choice.

In addition to supporting society, nonprofit jobs have many attractive perks but also pay less than a similar position in the private sector.

However, if your focus is social cause-driven as opposed to financial gain, then the nonprofit sector is a fantastic opportunity to work toward a specific philanthropic goal.

When working in the nonprofit sector, you will encounter situations that are exciting and others that are frustrating.

Like with any position, some advantages are expected, and several disadvantages can be surprising for those who switch careers.

Learning about the pros and cons of working for a nonprofit organization will better prepare you for a successful career.

Keep reading to learn more!

Pros of Working for a Nonprofit Organization

1. Always an Opportunity to Change the World

In recent years, nonprofit organizations have become structurally more sophisticated.

The result is they look more like corporations that are able and eager to respond to numerous opportunities that appear in the market.

These opportunities could range from natural disasters on the other side of the world to a donor in a small town who wants the nonprofit to think bigger about its programs.

In other words, nonprofits have taken a more entrepreneurial approach and implemented technological advances and new ways of thinking to become more prepared, adept, and agile.

2. Fast Professional Growth

Since nonprofits typically have fewer employees than in the public sector, you could volunteer for new challenges that help widen your skills.

For instance, if you are the only employee in the development department, you will quickly gain experience by performing tasks across numerous roles.

Many also see the impact they are making compared to a larger corporation.

Also, with limited resources, you must think creatively to solve problems.

3. Many Ways of Compensation

When working for nonprofit organizations, you will not pull in a major paycheck, but other benefits come with the job.

This is because many nonprofit employers know that to attract the best talent, they must be creative to compensate for lower pay.

Therefore, they are more willing to negotiate past salaries for other benefits like more vacation days or flexible schedules.

Also, you could be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if the nonprofit organization is considered an eligible 501©(3) by the IRS.

4. Skills Can Shift Quickly

One of the best employees in a nonprofit group is the generalist who can complete almost any job.

Nonprofits lie when employees multi-task because more work is then getting done.

As a result, these organizations consistently offer employees to gain experience and learn new skills in areas with which they are not familiar.

5. Work With a Diverse Group

It’s a common myth that nonprofits only settle for those willing to work longer hours for little pay

. On the other hand, nonprofits often choose between the brightest and best candidates, so they can afford to be picky over employing specific candidates.

That means, a typical group who is interested in the same social causes can range across a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

6. Working With Like-Minded Individuals

Being surrounded by colleagues that hold similar values and are enthusiastic about the same social causes is a major perk of working for a nonprofit.

If you want a sense of belonging in the workplace, then there is a higher probability of finding it in a nonprofit given that there is a sense of common bond and community.

This also helps you further expand your network, which may range from working on a political campaign or rubbing elbows with a celebrity or artist who shares your dedication.

7. You Are Making a Difference

The most obvious advantage to working for a nonprofit is the potential to work on a social issue that you care about.

At the end of the day, you will enjoy the satisfaction that derives from knowing that all your challenging work over the past day, month, or year is part of something bigger than you.

Also, you often get to see the results of your actions in helping others.

For instance, if you help build a new school in Africa or join Habitat for Humanity, you will bask in the joy on the faces of those you’ve helped.

Cons of Working for a Nonprofit Organization 

1. Consistent Fundraising Focus

Nonprofits have limited resources, so they’re relying on fundraising activities to pay for various aspects of the organization.

Nonprofit executives go to bed every night and wake up each morning concerned with where their next fundraised dollar will come from.

This consistent pressure leads to underfunding of specific areas until a crisis appears.

2. High Burnout Level

Those who enter the nonprofit workforce with a specific goal or mission, do so with a great deal of motivation and purpose.

In many instances, this extensive purpose adds a heavyweight onto the shoulders of those doing the work.

This results in many employees burning out fast because their efforts are too frontloaded.

3. Must Manage Expectations

When you first start working for a nonprofit organization, it is critical to managing your expectation.

Just because you work in this sector does not mean you are going to change the world overnight.

If you are prone to frustration or disappointment when you do not see immediate or tangible results, then this can be a tough area in which to work.

One solution to this issue is finding a nonprofit with excellent leaders who help you find and recognize the amazing impact you are making.

By understanding how you are making a daily difference, you can remain motivated by connecting the work you are doing to the end goal, especially when you are not experiencing immediate results.

4. Poor Financial Compensation

One of the most obvious disadvantages of working for a nonprofit organization is you will not have a high salary.

All nonprofits rely on government contracts, grants, and donations, so high salaries just are not possible.

This does not mean you cannot earn a decent living or rise through the ranks of the organization.

It is just a lower salary than their public counterparts.

This means you must always identify and evaluate your salary and investment strategy and how you wish to live your life financially before signing up.

5. Results Can Be Difficult to Identify

While some employees get to enjoy the fruits of their labor occasionally, others must “take it on faith” that the work they’re doing every day is contributed to a more important goal that is larger than themselves.

Some employees work for years in this sector and never get to see the work they’re doing is paying off.

6. Very High Stakes

When a public corporation has a dreadful day they lose a few percentage points off the stock price, which can cost millions of dollars, but nobody is harmed.

When an employee of a nonprofit has a difficult day, they could lose a mentored youth to drugs or some other activity.

When you are dealing with a social cause that’s close to the heart, the stakes are always higher.

7. Will Likely Have Limited Resources

Most nonprofit organizations are strapped for materials, people, and money.

This lack of funding equates to not having the right training, software, or tools to complete certain jobs.

Wearing multiple hats and doing more with less can result in burnout while providing you with new creative thinking skills.

Ask yourself: do you like finding innovative solutions with limited resources?

If this does not sound appealing, then this sector will cause stress over time.

Pros and Cons of Working for a Nonprofit Organization – Summary Table

Pros of Working for a Nonprofit OrganizationCons of Working for a Nonprofit Organization 
1. Always an Opportunity to Change the World1. Consistent Fundraising Focus
2. Fast Professional Growth2. High Burnout Level
3. Many Ways of Compensation3. Must Manage Expectations
4. Skills Can Shift Quickly4. Poor Financial Compensation
5. Work With a Diverse Group5. Results Can Be Difficult to Identify
6. Working With Like-Minded Individuals6. Very High Stakes
7. You Are Making a Difference7. Will Likely Have Limited Resources

Should You Work for a Nonprofit Organization?

The answer to this question really depends on your personality.

If you value higher compensation over working for a social cause, then a career in a nonprofit is not the best option.

On the other hand, if you value lower compensation with other benefits and work toward a common social goal with your colleagues, then you may have a career in this sector.

The best way to make this decision is by volunteering for a project and meeting the employees who work there permanently to see how they enjoy it.

This solution also helps you better understand the organization’s culture.

Additionally, you can serve on the foundation’s board to determine if it is the right career fit for you.

Junior boards, which do not require large financial or time commitments, are an excellent first step.

Pro bono work also provides an inside glimpse while helping to build your resume.

Jamie Willis