One of the defining qualities of being a Canadian is giving back to the community. Whether that community is your neighbourhood, your faith or cultural group, or an issue you care about, the desire to help others brings people who share similar values and interests together. The non-profit sector in Canada and the United States is a product of this quality.
The non-profit sector consists of a wide range of organizations, professions, and fields whose common mission is to work toward achieving goals that are not based on generating profit. Using this explanation, any of the following can be considered a non-profit:
- Cultural centres
- Arts councils
- Places of worship (for example, church, temple, mosque)
- Advocacy and charitable groups (for example, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
In one of our previous articles, we described how volunteering is a great way to contribute to your community, and also make connections that may be useful in your career development. Volunteering is one of the ways by which people first encounter and participate in non-profit work.
The next level for those who want to meaningfully engage with the non-profit sector is by actually working with a non-profit. The non-profit sector not only offers career opportunities where you can use your skills, education, and experience, but it is also one of the stepping stones through which immigrants build their careers in Canada and the U.S.
Here are five things to consider if you are thinking of starting a career in the non-profit sector.
The Non-Profit Sector Is Surprisingly Large
Here are some facts about the non-profit sector in Ontario, the largest province of Canada:
- 55,000 non-profit organizations operate in communities across Ontario
- Employs over one million workers (600,000 full-time workers)
- 5.2 million volunteers
- Contributes 2.6 percent of Ontario’s GDP; $50 billion in economic impact
In the U.S., “the nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $905.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, composing 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.”
Non-Profit Work Is as Competitive as Corporate Work
Some people may think working in the non-profit sector is not as demanding as working in the corporate world, but you would be surprised. Depending on the level of responsibility, the field, and the team you are surrounded with, non-profit work can be every bit as challenging as working for a profit-driven organization.
Because there are many aspects of non-profit work that can be directly tied to the wellbeing of the community around you, you can even argue that non-profit workers can be more motivated to ensure that they do their work to the best of their abilities.
Non-Profit Work Is Often International
Organizations like the Red Cross and Greenpeace have offices around the world. When a Canadian or U.S. non-profit operates in a country other than their own, they are often referred to as an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO).
For many immigrants coming here, an INGO is usually their first contact with a non-profit organization from Canada and the U.S. There are many ways that INGOs employ local residents in the areas in which they operate. From translation to directing the strategy of the whole operation, INGOs consist of a local workforce that spans all levels within the work hierarchy. Many of the local workers there take the experience and connections they gained from their job at an INGO toward a career pathway when immigrating to Canada or the U.S.
Non-Profit Wages May Surprise You
If earning as much money as possible is your top-most priority, then non-profit work is probably not the best option for you. However, because one of the fundamental values of many non-profit organizations is in ensuring that we have a fair society with good living conditions, decent wages is one of the attributes of the non-profit sector. For those who are starting in entry-level positions, this means that the wages offered in non-profits are often comparable to—if not better than—those offered in the corporate sector for similar jobs.
How much you earn working for a non-profit depends on the organization, the level of responsibility you have, and your skillset, but you may be pleasantly surprised. A chartered accountant in a large non-profit organization like the United Way or a lawyer for an INGO like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can pull in decent salaries.
To get a sense of the career opportunities in the non-profit sector in Canada and the kinds of salaries they offer, take a look at CharityVillage.
An Opportunity to Align Your Principles with Your Profession
Finally, one of the most important and satisfying aspects of working in the non-profit sector is the chance to work for something that is larger than just generating profit. Whether the non-profit focuses on saving the rainforest, helping the poor, or providing education credential assessments to internationally educated immigrants, the work in this sector allows you to fulfill a mission that you believe in.
As an immigrant myself, I take great pride in knowing that I can help skilled immigrants find support when it comes to starting a career or settling in Canada. These are things that I might be able to accomplish in a corporate setting, but it is not quite the same. I am sure many of my colleagues feel that way too.
The most important goal in many non-profit organizations is in helping others. This is a simple statement in many ways, but it is also profound. There is a sense of service to a bigger goal that cannot be broken down into dollar amounts (even though it is still a very crucial element in non-profit work). It is one of the reasons you will often see passionate non-profit workers working beyond their work schedules or duties.
You can, of course, still volunteer and use that route if you are employed in the corporate world. But if you have an opportunity to work for something you believe in and get paid for it, why not consider it?