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Perceptions and Misconceptions about the Nonprofit Sector

By Erdin Beshimov

Any profession has stereotypes attached to it, and the nonprofit profession is no exception. But do the stereotypes hold true?

  • "Nonprofit workers don't make any money."

In sectors that include both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, nonprofit workers earn well on par with their for-profit counterparts. For example, at nonprofit hospitals and nursing homes, the average nonprofit weekly wages are virtually identical with average wages at for-profit hospitals and nursing homes. Students considering careers in nonprofit should recognize the possibilities that do exist for financial security.

  • "It'll be easy for me to get a nonprofit job after I first work in the private sector."

The skills that one hones in business -- a can-do attitude, an understanding of what produces tangible results, working as part of a team, strategic thinking, and even basic accounting -- are highly sought-after by nonprofits.  However, it would be a mistake to think that your private sector experience alone is enough to land a nonprofit job.  For one thing, nonprofits increasingly attract top quality candidates and can afford to be selective.  A job candidate has to be able to demonstrate commitment to a given nonprofit cause and show understanding of nonprofit practices and issues. 

  • "Nonprofit experience may not be the best prep if I later want to apply for a business job."

In the days of ever-increasing competition for jobs, demonstrating commitment for and experience in a particular job function is vital.  However, some of the intangibles of working at a nonprofit can outweigh specific preparation for the business world.  These intangibles include the ability to achieve goals with limited resources, a capacity for communicating with diverse stakeholders, a knack for fund-raising, and many others.      

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