Career Change: From Profit to Nonprofit

by Trina Fleming

Two years ago I made a career move from the for profit sector to the nonprofit sector.  The biggest difference I found was that most everyone knows exactly what the organization’s mission is and can recite it verbatim.

In my experience working in the for profit world, many preached the importance of mission and vision.  We spouted it, we went to seminars about it, we may have even memorized it for our 30 second elevator pitch, but I am not convinced that most of us lived it.  And that’s not a put-down…I think to some degree and at some times, managing the bottom line was our mission.  Working with a nonprofit organization is different in that for the most part we live for the actual mission being manifested in the lives of those we are serving on a daily basis. We recognize the long term implications of our work and realize that not getting something done means more than not making profit, it may mean someone will continue to live in their car or go hungry.

That being said, I think there are a lot of similarities between for profit and non profit.  The same thing that make great for profit organizations make great non-profit organizations.  The customers are different, the tools may be different, the lingo and the some of the acronyms are different, but the people who are driven to achieve what most say cannot be done…they are the same.  The self-sacrificing compulsive A-type personality that is the driving force of great for profit organizations is the same one that successfully leads in the non-profit sector.

Another thing I will say about the non-profit sector is that lack of funding and resources will quickly shed light on who should be there and who should not.  Doing more with less, never ending multi-tasking and the courage to ask anyone and everyone to contribute their treasure, time and talent are the critical skill sets.  In the last two years I have worked harder and longer hours than any previous for profit position. Those who need our services never stop coming and I never feel like the job is done.  But on the other hand, no two days are the same, I hear amazing stories of transformed lives and the mission that drives me is aligned with my own values and vision for my life.

Another difference I found in the nonprofit sector is that most everyone is willing to empty their own trash. I don’t hear anyone saying, “that’s not my job.”  While there are very specific job descriptions and clear definitions of functions and responsibilities, there is also a somewhat unspoken understanding that we are here to get a mission done and we will do what needs to be done to do just that.

About the Author

Trina Fleming

Trina is the Director of Operations and Marketing at WHW. She utilizes her 22 years of experience in operations, information technology systems and business development as she is charged with enhancing and maintaining internal organization processes, overseeing all facility needs, the development and management of technology support and a focused outreach to local small business partners.  Trina leads a volunteer Marketing and Public Relations Committee focused on critical marketing and outreach to all of WHW’s constituents and effective communication between the organization and the public.

About What’s For Work?

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