Surprises come in every career and the glamourized versions we imagine often don’t come close to the truth. For those making the change from the corporate world to the nonprofit sphere, these surprises can be unexpected and even shocking. For example, many of our interviewees did not anticipate nonprofit work to be more challenging than their previous corporate jobs. Gone were the days of 9-to-5. When operating with very small margins, there is a seemingly constant pressure to ensure everything stays on track and is accounted for. Surprisingly few dollars can mean the difference between keeping the mission afloat or floundering.
To those on the front lines, it seems obvious why every dollar is crucial, as they directly affect the lives of those served by nonprofits. Even so, donors are often surprised by how so little can make such a difference, whether it is five dollars to feed a child, or two dollars to help provide clean water in an underdeveloped area. However, nonprofit experts know that there are many logistic and infrastructure costs in facilitating such change. These are real business costs that require donations of dollars and services.
Those working in fundraising, lamented their surprise that donors don’t seem to understand nonprofits rely directly on donations. Thus, nonprofits are significantly affected by the ebbs and flows of the economy.
Moreover, there is an art to running a nonprofit effectively, efficiently, and impactfully. It requires the understanding that nonprofits often cannot adapt quickly. Pivoting their focus or redirecting resources is frequently a slow and often painful process.
Many recounted that board members are often extremely passionate and dedicated to the cause of the organization, something they admired. Unfortunately, this group can occasionally hinder the success of nonprofits if they are not up to date on the best business practices for nonprofits. For example, the board’s opinion can impact the ability of nonprofits to implement investments of ROI, which are vital for increasing net revenue that can be applied to the organization’s mission.
Most of our interviewees learned quickly that working for a nonprofit is more than just a job. For the long days, painstaking processes and often lower pay to be worth it, you have to work for the cause and enjoy the community you’re working alongside.