Career Center Blog

August 26, 2010

So you want to work for a nonprofit, part two


Heather Krasna photo.JPGIn my last post, I spoke to Heather Krasna, author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service, about the difference between job hunting in the nonprofit sector and the for-profit world.

[Heather Krasna | Photo by Karen Orders Photography]

In this post, Krasna, who's also Director of Career Services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs, offers some additional insight into how working in the nonprofit sector differs from working for a corporation or a government organization.

Q. You've said that nonprofit work tends to be more creative and entrepreneurial. Why is that?

A. It's hard to generalize about nonprofits because there are 1.6 million nonprofit organizations in the United States and 8.7 million people working in them. They range from tiny, all-volunteer organizations to enormous institutions like nonprofit hospitals and universities. In many cases, though, the work can be more creative than the work in the public sector (government) because nonprofits are not bound by as many rules, laws, and regulations, and more creative than the private sector (business) because they do not have to make a profit to survive.

Freed from the constraints of having to report to either voters or shareholders (but having to report to their donors), nonprofits can focus mostly on their mission and can often find more creative ways to reach their goals. Also, many nonprofits are tiny, with 10 staff or less, and can come up with innovative ways to approach a problem.

Q. Under what circumstances would you advise someone not to go into nonprofit work?

A. One thing I want people to consider is that although you may want to change the world by working for a nonprofit, you should consider all the reasons you are motivated to do so. Are you running away from something you dislike? Have you really researched the field you want to enter? Also, remember that you can change the world in other ways.

People change the world in a positive way through government and private sector jobs all the time. Some people wouldn't consider it, but you might be able to make as much of an impact -- sometimes even a greater impact -- by working for the Environmental Protection Agency or an environmental consulting firm as you can by working for Greenpeace.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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