TAO Self-help

Title:Why don't more veterans consider careers in nonprofits?

Author:Ron Rutherford (Business Development Manager)

Date:December 2013


This was the topic recently in a LinkedIn group devoted to Veteran employment I belong to. Seemed like a fair question, giving veterans a broader range of options for careers. However, it was interesting to see the responses. Some veterans were already working in a non-profit organization (NPO) and wanted to share their experiences. But, the majority of those responding to this question felt non-profit work was not for them.

Usually, they cited pay, working conditions and/or lack of skills to work in a non-profit as the reasons they would not want to pursue. It is important to understand just what it means to be classified as a non-profit.

A non-profit is an organization that reinvests surplus revenue back into the organization to achieve its intended goal, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends. Designation as a non-profit does not mean the organization cannot make a profit. Rather, the organization has no owners and that 'profit' will go towards the purpose of the non-profit, not the people operating it.

Another trait for a non-profit is it is usually 'cause' related. A NPO does not usually make material things, like cars or computers or appliances. Instead, it may take in those items, refurbish them and then sell them to fund the true 'cause' of the NPO.

Most think of non-profits as charities, like Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross. Did you also realize non-profits include most colleges and universities as well as many hospitals?

There are more than 1.6 million NPOs registered in the United States alone. Many are small, localized efforts. But some are huge, like the $38 Billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or the $14.8 Billion Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Small NPO's and many NGO's (non-government organizations) use volunteers or a 'raise-your-own support' staff. This means the organization calculates what you'll need to live on and then you petition family, friends and other groups to 'sponsor' you to do this work. This is the usual portrait of a NPO worker; Someone basically 'begging' for funds to work long hours for a cause. Fortunately, this is not the case with a growing number of NPO's. As an example, the Gates Foundation top-5 executives all have annual salaries exceeding $400,000 and The Nonprofit Times Salary and Benefits Reports the median salary for U.S. Executive directors is $60,000.

As far as job growth - According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social and community service managers are projected to experience a 27% rate of job growth between 2010 and 2020, considered faster than the average. Currently, nearly 57% of jobs in the nonprofit sector are in healthcare and the BLS indicates that health educators are projected for the highest job growth at 37% between 2010 and 2020.

Non-profit work isn't for everyone — just like retail, or construction, or being in the military. However, it is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. Economy and jobs are available for review.

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