Handling the Transition To Non-Profit Careers

Handling the Transition To Non-Profit Careers
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Private companies have a workplace culture all their own. Non-profits also have their own way of doing business. If someone is making a career change from the private sector to one of the non profit careers, by choice or out of necessity, they need to be aware of this shift. For some it could be a smooth transition. For others it could be a shocking adjustment.

Work Environment

The worker coming from the private sector will need to understand the non-profit functions for a different objective. The company is in a competitive environment with other companies in the same field. Their objective is to gain as much of the market share as they can, to be in a position to maximize the profit margin. Those employed in a non-profit company are working for a cause, or group of constituents. The environment there is one of service. Employees transitioning into non-profits need to understand the change in mindset from a competitive environment, to one of relationship building.

A public relations specialist working for a private insurance company, for example, would communicate the services the company offers, and the success that these products have been in the market. If the same professional went to work for a group like the American Diabetes Association, they would be involved in informing the public about diabetes, and the activities the organization is doing to assist those affected.


Pay in a non-profit organization is generally less than jobs in the private sector. The private corporation is driven by profit. A company experiencing financial success has the option of providing incentives like raises and bonuses to their employees. This is a way to increase productivity in workers, and to maintain their company’s position in the market. The non profit sector does not have that flexibility, working to an annual budget. Other forms of revenue for the non profit organization, including grants and government aid, are inconsistent. Those employed in non-profit careers can go extended periods of time without an increase in salary. To them, working for a cause is more important than compensation.

Job Function


In a private corporation, employees generally have a clear idea what their job function is. Workers are hired into a job where their skills and training can be applied. Companies operate with departments based on worker roles, and job functions are highly specialized.

In contrast, people in non-profit careers are forced wear different hats in their duties. They need to have a flexibility and willingness to do a variety of tasks, since the job duties are not clearly defined. As an example, someone with a business and finance background works for a financial institution selling their company’s products to customers. They make a career change to become an administrator of a small non-profit art museum, where they handle the non-profit cash flow and budget, hire staff, oversee volunteers, write grants, and whatever else is needed to keep the place in operation.

What non-profit careers do not provide in pay, can be made up for in job satisfaction compared to their private sector counterparts. The non-profit worker sees more to their job than just a paycheck. Trying to make the world and their community a better place is what drives workers in this field.


1. Alliance for Nonprofit Management www.allianceonline.org

2. Support Center For Non Profit Management www.supportcenteronline.org

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