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Finding A Nonprofit Job: Management Over Mission?

When it comes to nonprofit jobs, how much dysfunction is too much?

man holding his head in his hands

Photo: Zach Klein (Flickr)

For nonprofit jobs, sometimes a bold vision or coherent mission just isn't enough.

A recent editorial from Nonprofit Quarterly opines that all nonprofits are dysfunctional, and the real task for nonprofit employees is to determine how much dysfunction they can handle.

For young people just entering the workforce, the prevailing opinion is that they should look for an entry-level job at an organization that perfectly suits their beliefs and interests. But Jinna Halperin, a guest contributor for Nonprofit Quarterly, believes that the real question is whether the management style suits your beliefs and interests.

No matter how noble the mission, the organization could have real problems that one employee cannot address. Here’s how Halperin puts it:

Over the years, I have determined which dysfunctions I can tolerate. And so should you. I am no longer driven only by the mission of the organization. Having so many issues about which I feel passionate and on which I have worked, I have come to believe that employment happiness at nonprofits is more about how one is treated and whether one’s contribution is respected, rather than whether it seems to be the ideal position at the ideal organization.

Without the kinds of salaries employees can earn in the private sector, the nonprofit world has long held that it’s the mission that attracts people and makes them stay. But Halperin raises the issue of turnover: if a lot of employees leave after a year or two, it’s probably not the mission that has them down, but the management. And logic has it that the reverse is true as well. A workplace with many people who have been there for ten years or more …

Have you left a nonprofit because of the way it’s managed? What are your management deal-breakers?

 

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