Boy are there plenty of misconceptions out there about working for a nonprofit! And since I’ve been doing so full time for almost six years, I’ve heard my share of them. But if you try to explain the intricacies of the sector to someone over a cocktail, nine times out of ten their eyes will glaze over and they’ll be wandering back to the bar before you know it. Here are my three favorite questions, and suggested responses, to the statement: I do fundraising and marketing for a nonprofit.
- I hate asking for money. How do you do that all day? Fundraising does not equal sales. When people think of fundraising, they think sales: pressure situations, aggression, general impersonal interaction. Fundraising for a nonprofit is probably the opposite of that. The basic premise of fundraising is relationship building, cultivating, and being sensitive to donor wants and needs. My suggested response: It can be difficult. But when you have a good cause to raise money for, it’s really not so bad! In fact, it’s very satisfying to help donors support something they feel passionate about!
- If you work for a nonprofit, how do you get paid? This one doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I know I’m dealing with a real newbie. Nonprofit does not mean you don’t make a profit, it simply means you are dealing with dual missions: both the cause you are working for and staying financially sound. It’s a better practice to come out in the black, just as it is in the for profit sector. My suggested response: I do get paid – nonprofits are just like businesses, only with a different goal: ours is to help people. We still generate revenue for operations and salaries – in fact, that’s what I do.
- What is your long term goal? As if working the nonprofit sector is just a stepping stone to your next career. I actually get this question more now that I’m doing my Masters in Nonprofit Administration, because people are perplexed that a program like that even exists. Professionalism in the sector is just picking up steam, and we’re moving in the right direction. My suggested response: I haven’t completely figured it out, but I’m interested in capacity building for nonprofits. So whether that’s strategic planning, doing leadership development, or other consulting, that’s where I’d like to be. But one thing’s for sure: I’m staying in the nonprofit sector.
This is not to knock my for profit counterparts – of course, with the relatively low awareness of nonprofit operations, it’s only inevitable that there are misconceptions. This post is for my nonprofit peers, who suffer with articulating what they do over a martini. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks!!