Friday 25 July 2014

So, You Want To Work For A Non-Profit...Part Deux

I have worked for a non-profit (NPO) for about 5 years and get asked all the time what it's like. I'm happy to share my experience and try and give a balanced answer- sharing both the pros and cons- but also pointing out that everyone's experience is different and that not all NPO's are run the same.
Thanks to contract work, I've had the opportunity to work for 3 different NPO's. There were the aspects of the job I loved and aspects of the job I didn't love so much- or at all.
Last week I shared 6 things about working for an NPO that I had never told anyone. So, this week, I thought I'd share 6 of my favourite things about working for an NPO.
1. Work doesn't always seem like work. In the past month, "work" has included going to the park, museum and butterfly conservatory (scouting event site locations); shopping (thank you gifts for speakers, event guests and auction items); going out for lunch with people (building relationships) and reading magazines (creating a prospect list of people we can ask to donate auction items to our event). On of my favourite work experiences was when I worked on a commercial.
2. You get invited to a lot of places. Some of the invites make sense, like when I was invited to LeaderCast, and some are 'really? that counts as work?' invites I get invited to Strawberry Socials, spa grand openings, concerts, theatre performances (including opening nights), horse races, casino bus trips and tv stations. I don't go to everything I'm invited too, but I do get a lot of fun invites.
3. Event leftovers. This is probably one of the best parts of my job. Whenever I have an event for work, the caterer sends me home with the leftover food. I can usually get three or four meals out of the leftovers and the food is usually pretty good.
4. Free stuff. It's mostly pens, notebooks and post it notes. But, I've also gotten energy drinks, magazines, mugs, DVDs, gloves, food vouchers, hand sanitizer, Bailey's, books, chocolate...a variety of stuff. People give me stuff as a thank you for working with them or free samples so I can see what they offer and use their company in the future.
5. Summer Students. People have mixed ideas on summer students. I personally like them. It's kind of fun (and stressful) finding the right fit for our organization. If you hire the right student, it can be a really great experience. They bring different skills and ideas to the table, assisting with different aspects of the job. I try to make the experience a fun, memorable and educational opportunity for the students I work with. I like to provide them with cupcakes, road trips to site venues, stickers and a suggestion box where they can provide feedback on how I can do my job better- like to provide more flavours of cupcakes. There are lots of laughs while being productive.
6. Feedback. This is hands down the most rewarding and best part of my job. I am in charge of fundraising, which means I am responsible for bringing money so we can offer our programs and services to our clients (no pressure there). When I hear clients say how much they gain from our services, how they don't feel so alone, how they don't know what they would have done without us, how we have made the process easier on them...this makes everything that I do and have to put up with, worth it. I know the work I am doing, all of my sacrifices, headaches, frustrations and even the fun stuff as listed above, is making a difference in someone's life.
Like everything NPO's offer good and bad. Every experience is different. Within the same organization I have had the best experience of my life and the worst experience of my life. It is all about who you interact with and work with. It also has to do with your personality and how invest you are in your organization. I'm ok with being underpaid because the feedback from our clients more than makes up for it.
I repeatedly say that you have to really love what you do to work for an NPO, and I stand by that statement. Like all jobs, there are a number of pros and cons, and the industry isn't for everyone.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my magazine reading at the park...kidding. We went to the park on Wednesday.

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