When I changed my career to working in the nonprofit field, I had a surprising experience. My first job in the charitable industry was starting up the development operations for a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. I was working on a capital campaign to improve the lives of seniors and organizing a terrific group volunteers to support our efforts. I expected that when I told my friends and former colleagues, they’d be enthusiastic, encouraging and perhaps even inspried to help. But it was quite the opposite. Responses often included: “But what’s your real job?” or “Is that a job you actually get paid for?” You get the point.
Don’t be surprised if you hear things like this if you change your career to serving others. Sadly, the charitable industry is often misunderstood and one I believe doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
This confusion may stem from the select interactions people have with charities. For example: You attend a gala for a charity, have a lovely evening and head home feeling happy, perhaps inspired and move on with your life. Nothing wrong with that. But all too often, you may have gone home learning little about the impact of the nonprofit. Moreover, you probably have little conception of the work that went into making the event seem like a smoothly run operation.
As for the respect part well, that’s worthy of multiple posts. But using the basic yardstick of compensation, nonprofit professionals are extremely undervalued. Puritan history and values have moved forward into the present. They dictate that nonprofit professionals doing work as challenging as their commercial counterparts should earn significantly less. Why are staff and leaders of charities compensated at a fraction of what corporate leaders make? Is selling candy, soda, video games and phones (as just a few examples) more important than alleviating poverty, improving education, curing killer diseases and so many other important charitable causes? For now, the answer seems to be Yes. For at lot more on this topic, pick up either of Dan Pallotta’s books; Charity Case or Uncharitable.
So, to aspiring change leaders out there, this is what you’re up against. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Even if we didn’t address the above, it is so worth it. If you’ve read the above and are still committed to moving forward, a few quick recommendations:
Time to get started…
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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