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:
- Take this on: If you’re just one step from taking on that first role in the nonprofit world, as Nike says, “Just Do It”. Intention and inspiration brought you this far so, take the leap. And if you are stepping in now, you have a unique opportunity to not only serve but to inspire others and change perceptions of our industry.
- Be proud of what you do and share it with others: Educate others; volunteers, donors, friends, neighbors, and pretty much everyone about what you do and what it takes to do it. I’m not suggesting you start a Poor Me Campaign aimed at letting everyone know how misunderstood nonprofit professionals are. Quite the opposite. Be proud of your career choice, help others understand your sense of purpose, values and why what you do is more than worthy of being “a real job.”
- Become an advocate for our industry: This is an exciting time in the charitable industry and positive changes are happening. There is increasing recognition that nonprofits need to invest in their organizations, fairly compensate their employees and even spend money to raise money (what a concept!) You can help move the needle by doing things as simple as writing a post like this, speaking in your community about the importance of nonprofits and even joining organizations like the Charity Defense Council, an organization that’s changing the way the world looks at the industry.
Time to get started…