In my time working in nonprofits, I’ve had the pleasure to work in several different sectors: from education to healthcare to youth development to wilderness preservation. And now, I spend the majority of my time working as an instructional designer in research education at a state-funded university. In all my experience in the non-profit world, there are several commonalities I see between them. These are, in this author’s humble opinion, the core values surrounding all nonprofit sectors.
A Focus on Value
Nonprofit organizations tend to have a focus on values. In the private sector, value-driven businesses are a somewhat newer trend. Many in the private sector have discovered that if you focus your energy on delivering value to your customers, the profits will come. This is a concept that has been central to the nonprofit sector from the get go. Nonprofits have a mission and vision that focus on the value they offer to their community, to their constituents, and to the world. This is a strength and one of the things that reminds me why I’m doing whatever work it is that I’m doing. A strong mission supported by dedicated staff can make the changes needed to improve our world.
A Stigma Surrounding Money
Not all nonprofit tendencies are productive. This is perhaps a generalization, but many nonprofits have a stigma around being profitable. Nonprofit is not about a lack of profitability as much as a focus on mission first, profit second. Often, in my experience in the nonprofit world, a feeling that “we only have so much, can only get so much, can only pay so much” limits the vision and possibility that could exist in an organization. But a strong value proposition, supported by some good funding sources, and implemented by a driven staff can make phenomenal change happen. Never use the excuse of being a nonprofit to support limiting beliefs.
Talk to almost any nonprofit employee, staff member, organizational leader, and behind their desire to work in the nonprofit sector, you’ll find heart. It may be buried deep, forgotten in a lifetime of bureaucracy, but heart is the center to why we do what we do. All of us began with a passion, a cause, or a desire to do good. Whether we still remember that in our day to day operations, that passion still lies in the pathway of our journey. If you find yourself trudging through the day, week, or even months, search deep and see if you can’t relight that spark. But hopefully, if you are reading this blog, your fire is already burning strong. So tell us, what does working at a nonprofit mean to you?