Valentine’s Day has come and gone. By now, the flowers you received are brown and drooping, and the weird fruit-filled chocolates are the only ones left in the box. Is this what your nonprofit job sometimes feels like?
Let’s be honest here. Sometimes it’s hard to work at a nonprofit. The board agendas, work plans, white papers, fundraising letters, metrics, phone calls, and meetings seem endless. And occasionally you can’t help wondering if it’s worth it. You could be making more money. You’re sick of being short-staffed. And your work—alleviating homelessness, poverty, global warming, illiteracy—can be overwhelming, frustrating, and more than a little depressing.
If you’ve fallen out of love with your nonprofit job, try to concentrate on what made you want to work for a nonprofit in the first place. Can’t recall it right now? Here’s a good list to keep around when you’re feeling down (loosely inspired by this list from NonProfit People). Print it out and hang it in your cubicle, throw darts at it when you don’t believe it, meditate to it when work is especially challenging—whatever you need to do. Because you’re going to wake up in a couple of days and remember why you’re a nonprofit professional.
Your job can be fun. You don’t have to wear a power suit. Your nonprofit keeps beer in the fridge for impromptu celebrations. If you have an appointment, you’re trusted to make up your hours and get your work done. Nonprofit professionals work—and are expected to work—hard. But nonprofits offices tend to be flexible and fun.
Your happiness is important. You have health insurance, generous vacation and sick time, maybe even discounted bus passes or other perks. Employee happiness is an important part of the nonprofit culture because you’re not just a cog in the wheel…you’re an important part of the mission.
You can wear lots of hats. Want to learn about accounting, strategic planning, marketing, or fundraising? Or do you want to expand your skills in social media or website design? Just speak up and your coworkers will be happy for the help. You’ll expand your skill set and be an important team player—usually without any territorial skirmishes.
Ideas are welcome. Just because you’re not the boss doesn’t mean you don’t have good ideas. There’s an equality at nonprofits that means everyone from the front desk associate to the junior fundraiser can make suggestions, streamline processes, and craft a great social media campaign.
You and your colleagues can be shamelessly idealistic. Nonprofit work isn’t a “time is money” mentality. Your bottom line is about helping people. It’s inspiring to work with other people who see the world as you do and want to improve it—not improve the CEO’s annual bonus.
You work for the greater good. Your work does more than help those you immediately serve; it has a legacy. The size of your issue may be daunting at times, but remember your work is causing positive change. Even if you don’t get to see the difference, your children will.
As young nonprofit professionals, we make a choice to take on huge problems and work long hours to help others and improve the world around us. But it’s not easy. Sometimes you need a cheat sheet. (And a brand new box of chocolates wouldn’t hurt either.)