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Work/life balance helps non-profits be top places to work

Recently, I came across a non-profit I wasn’t familiar with. Interested, I wenthead_logo2.jpg to its Web site and a logo popped up for NorthCoast 99, an award that honors the top 99 places to work in Northeast Ohio. Although I believe the awards to be a bit subjective, its presence got me thinking. What makes a non-profit worthy of being a top place to work?

fortune_magazine.gifAs I hunted the blogosphere for my answer, I noticed that several bloggers, including Tom Durso’s of The 501(c) Files, were proud to see non-profits along side corporations in Fortune magazine. In January, Fortune announced its 100 Best Places to Work For and several non-profits made the list, including MITRE, a non-profit research firm that has made the list seven years in a row.

 

So, what sets a non-profit apart from an average corporation? What I and many others see is the one thing that is moving non-profits up the ladder of prominence is work/life balance.

Seeing as MITRE has cracked the code of employee satisfaction, at least according to worklifesign.jpgFortune, it’s a great place to start the examination of work/life balance in non-profits. Among MITRE’s work/life programs, which include adoption assistance and wellness programs, is the program entitled “Flexible Work Arrangement.” In short, this program allows employees to flex their time at the workplace and telecommute from home in order to deal with personal and family priorities.

MITRE is not only flexible non-profit. Many non-profits have foregone adhering strict schedules so that employees can see to personal issues. In my own experience, the greatest perk at my non-profit job was knowing if a crisis came up or a Northeast Ohio snow day occurred I could work from home. This was a great asset when my dad was battling a fatal disease and we didn’t know when I’d be needed at home.

Another increasingly popular work/life program offered by MITRE and other non-profits is child care. MITRE offers employees resources for emergency childcare in case school is canceled or a babysitter backs out. Other non-profits host full-time on-site childcare for employees, which invaluable to working parents.

The work/life balance movement is on a roll and if they have formalized programs or not, non-profits are helping set the curve. Although students and young professionals may be wooed by the opportunity of a big paycheck, no amount of money can by you extra hours in a day or a second chance at your kids’ first day of kindergarten.

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Building your resume with non-profits

So you’re looking for your first internship or “real” job but you’rjobsearchnewspaper.jpge nervous that your resume looks a little weak. Beef it up with some non-profit experience.

For college students it shouldn’t be a surprise that non-profits are a great source for experience. If you’re thinking only corporations or agencies are looking for top-level talent, think again. Non-profits have limited resources so it’s very important to get a bang for every buck and ambitious college students offer an explosion for low cost.

Internships
Although my non-profit internship didn’t pay as well some others (it did pay decently though) or have the cachet of working for a big firm, I was quite lucky. While my friends who worked at corporate and agency positions spent 20 hours a week making copies and updating media reports, I became the editor of three publications within a week.

Super small staffs mean interns need to perform at least at an entry level and many are expected to do more than that. With that being said, a non-profit internship isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for an easy summer break, I’m sure McDonalds is hiring. But if you want to put the skills you learned in the classroom into action, try a non-profit.

To start your search for non-profit internships, visit idealist.org.

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Classroom Projects
You don’t have to commit to a full internship to get non-profit experience. Leverage your classroom projects to work with well-rounded clientele.

If a class calls for you to create a project such as a media kit, find a non-profit whose mission fits with your interests. Many small non-profits would jump at the chance for some “free work.” More importantly, many non-profits either don’t have materials prepared or the time to update them. This is a great opportunity for a class project to go beyond the classroom and actually be to put to good use.

Volunteer Your Skills
Volunteering is a great opportunity to strengthen your professional skills. If you don’t have previous employment, volunteering can be considered “work” even if you aren’t paid for it. See Susan J. Ellis’s article “Put Volunteer Work on Your Resume,” for tips on how to leverage volunteering to get an interview.

If you have a skill you want to work on before applying for an internship, volunteer your time on specific projects to hone it. Writing press releases, working on special events and performing research are all great examples where non-profits could use some support.

A bonus with this option is that you get a great resume builder while doing as much or as little to fit your schedule.

Young Professionals: Take a second look at non-profits

As an undergrad, a few years back, I made the great decision to use my skills to help people and start a career in non-profit PR. But now, I can’t help but think a non-profit could be the right choice for more bright, young professionals—if they only knew what they were in for.

Many students have somewhat skewed expectations for non-profits. So, I came up with three non-profit myths that I believe hinder students from considering non-profit.

Myth #1: I don’t want to be broke.

one.jpg I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “you can’t get rich at a non-profit.” Well, this is quite simply—possibly true, but don’t give up yet.

OK, the average salary of $72,132 for PR managers, as reported in a careerbuilder.com survey, is not the average salary of someone starting in non-profit. But who starts out as manager? No one and this is where non-profit can have its edge.

Starting at an agency or a big corporation, you most likely will have 10 or more people performing higher level PR, marketing, etc. Often the bottom rung means menial responsibilities and menial pay.

In contrast, at a non-profit typically less than a handful of people perform any communication function. This means you start with more responsibility which could translate into a pay bump (which can be small but noticeable).

And by the way, according to a 2006 report conducted by the Nonprofit Times, the salary of the average non-profit chief of marketing is more than that salary listed above, rolling in at about $72,600.

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Myth #2: I’m not a peace-loving, tree-hugger

_sycamore-tree-jericho.jpg Many people at non-profits are extremely dedicated to a cause, but not everybody makes it their life. Being committed to an organization’s mission doesn’t mean you have to spend your free time at a rallies or animal shelters if you don’t want to.

Sure, you should believe in an organization if you want to work there, but if you don’t have a passion for the cause before you see the job posting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply.

Most non-profits deal with a lot of the same issues for-profits do. Non-profits need well-rounded professionals who understand how their job can affect the bottom line.

As for the idea, that everyone needs to a “good” person to work for a non-profit, I think idealist.org does a good job summing it up, “Most people who work in the nonprofit sector generally do care about making the world a better place….[But] Do not be surprised when you encounter difficult personalities, big egos, and office politics…”

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Myth #3: I won’t get to enhance my skills

Of the three myths, this is clearly the most untrue. There are great olightbulb-screw.jpgpportunities for young professionals at non-profits to not only enhance their current skills but to develop many more.

Most non-profits need everyone to hit the ground running. From day one, young professionals are in the trenches coordinating large-scale projects and interacting with all the organization’s major players.

Although you may lick some envelopes, you’ll also develop campaign strategies and respond to crisis situations. If you take the initiative, you really can make a mark, which will help out down the road if you do decide to venture into other types of PR.

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So with these myths more or less busted, I hope that more young professionals are willing to take a second look at non-profits.