Published on August 1, 2017, at 12:13 p.m.
by Dalton Kerby
You won’t make any money. They’re for those who either couldn’t make it in the corporate/agency world or are looking to stay busy while retired. The list of comments like these goes on. We’ve all heard the downsides of nonprofit work, and how your PR degree would be better spent at an agency where you might do a little pro bono work here and there. I myself and a growing number of young professionals would say otherwise.
Let’s first dispel the biggest lie. Just because you work for a nonprofit doesn’t mean that you are giving away your skills for free. As Idealist Careers states, the nonprofit sector employs roughly 1 in 12 Americans and is a $670 billion industry.
There is a marked difference between the nonprofit workforce and its volunteer base. A career in the nonprofit sphere can truly be a career. Furthermore, I’d argue that nonprofits and charities can offer what few other employers truly can — a cause, a banner worth working for. The reward for bettering the world and helping others far outweighs any paycheck you could ever receive.
Next, nonprofit work can be just as rigorous as that of an agency or corporation. Nonprofits that manage millions of dollars are constantly involved in donor relations, event management, marketing outreach, internal communications and media relations.
Nonprofits must both promote themselves and their causes. They, too, are adjusting to the digital age in which we live and are engaging in social media and digital campaigns. They are expected to have modern websites and publications, and like any such entity, must be proactively in their crisis management. Every service offered by an agency is required in nonprofit work, and they need competent practitioners to guide them.
The nonprofit sector isn’t a walk in the park, either. We like to think that everyone in this workforce is the embodiment of a smile, but like in any business, heads will butt and ideas will clash. There will be compromise and collaboration. Furthermore, we tend to forget that this sector is a competitive one. Nonprofits are all seeking to convince their publics that they are worth donating time and money to. It takes an employee who is truly an advocate to relay their convictions to the masses, and fight to advance their cause, their banner.
There are more myths I could dispel, but I’ll leave you with this: Don’t dismiss the nonprofit sector, especially without giving it a chance. Even if it isn’t for you, there are ways you can contribute from any field. We as the public relations industry need to find a mutual respect across our individual sectors and remember that we are all working diligently to sharpen our craft and provide great work to our employers. Let’s focus our competitive energies positively, encouraging each to be his or her best.