In this difficult economy, people are thinking outside of the box when it comes to employment opportunities. Whether it’s seeking out temporary employment agencies or internship programs, many people are looking for alternative methods of seeking employment outside of the traditional forms of simply sending out resumes. One route that is sometimes overlooked is seeking out employment in the nonprofit sector of the job market. Nonprofit jobs can offer many benefits that are simply not found in the for-profit world and can be a great way to help others while helping yourself.

Nonprofit organizations in collaboration with helping animals and humans alike have been popping up all over the nation. The most recent nonprofit organization to make the headlines was Lutheran Church Charities in Chicago when it sent 10 golden retrievers to Newtown, Connecticut. Dogs can act as non-judgmental, accepting and loving pets to soothe those during traumatic times. This same notion is what Pets for Vets encompasses by providing a second chance for shelter pets to be placed as companion animals for veterans. The website states, “Sadly, there are alarming statistics of suicide, family abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder facing veterans returning to civilian life after military duty. It is our belief that companion animals can be the life saving therapy or friend that many returning service men and women need.”

Tracy Ball, director of the Chicago chapter of Pets for Vets, has extensive experience working for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations and has much insight on the different benefits working for a nonprofit can provide.

Greater sense of teamwork at nonprofits

When asked whether or not the cultures were different in working for a nonprofit versus a for-profit company, Tracy stated, “People get into nonprofit work because they want to help others. No one goes into a nonprofit job thinking that if they work hard and outstrip their coworkers, they’ll forge a path to the top. In my experience, it is the exact opposite: Nonprofits only work if they work as a team. Usually, everyone is working toward a common goal, and truly believes in that goal. I know in my career people have shown true interest in mentoring and teaching me simply because the better everyone does their job, the more the cause succeeds. It’s a lot more difficult to be out for yourself when you are working to feed people, to help people with mental illness, to give families a home or any of the other millions of worthy endeavors out there. To me, it comes down to the difference between being motivated by a paycheck and being motivated by a cause; one isn’t necessarily more powerful than the other but the results are very different.”

Greater sense of giving back at nonprofits

When asked what the positives were for working for a nonprofit organization, Tracy stated, “At the end of the day, I feel like I made someone’s life a little better, which in turn makes mine a little better. In a nonprofit, there is tremendous room to grow, as no matter what your title, you will be doing a hundred different jobs. People pitch in where needed in nonprofits and therefore you get a wide range of experience no matter what position you hold. You can build your resume while you’re unemployed. Nonprofits are always in need of help whether they are a multimillion-dollar organization or run out of someone’s kitchen. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door and prove your value to an organization you are interested in.”

Only senior roles tend to pay very well at nonprofits

However, working for nonprofit organizations does have its negatives in terms of comparison to a for-profit organization. Tracy says, “The pay is usually very low unless you are at the very top. It can be difficult to be always asking for help. Being supplicating all the time can be draining as you are never in a position of power. You never truly punch out if you’re working for something you believe in. I watch movies and jot notes of future fundraisers like the party they’re having on the screen, or make a mental note to ask my friend if her dad would be interested in working with our organization because of the story she just told at dinner. You become an opportunist because you so badly want to help the cause you are working for.”

Tracy adds, “Working in nonprofits is a way of stepping outside of yourself and seeing there is a whole world out there that is different than yours. Every nonprofit needs help, and every person should have something they are working for other than themselves.”

Sara Lugardo is a Korean American who thrives in writing about Asian community news in Chicago. She has a Bachelor’s in Communication and is currently working on her Master’s. Her work can be found on

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