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Career Choices: Working for a non-profit organisation

Want a career where you can make a positive impact on the world? You may want to consider working for a non-profit organisation. Here’s what you need to know.


Non-profit organisations are businesses that work to make a difference in the world, typically though charitable, educational, scientific, or religious means. They are so-called because any profit they generate doesn’t go to individuals or shareholders but goes straight back into helping with their (usually) noble cause.


What type of causes could you be helping with? 

The variety of causes that non-profit organisations work towards is huge. Here are just a few of the most well-known examples.

Animal – such as wildlife conservation, pet and animal welfare, hunting and fishing conservation, zoos and aquariums.

Environment – such as conservation and protection, parks, and nature reserves.

International Non-Governmental Organisations (charities that work in other countries) – such as international development, disaster relief and humanitarian, peace and human rights, conservation, and child sponsorship.

Health – such as medical services and treatment, research, and patient and family support.

Education – such as private schools, universities and colleges, scholarship and financial aid, school reform and experimental education, and support for students, teachers, and parents.

Art and culture – such as museums and art galleries, performing arts, libraries, public broadcasting and media.


What are the different types of non-profit organisations?

Just like we see large or small companies that are structured in different ways, the way in which the different types of non-profit organisations are run can affect your role.

Public Charities rely on public donations to aid things like disadvantaged children, the environment, cancer research or rescued animals. Examples include UNICEF, Greenpeace, Breast Cancer Care and the RSPCA.


Private Foundations are also dedicated to similar charitable purposes but are funded by either a wealthy individual or family, or a corporation. Private foundations are also divided into several sub-categories that you should be aware of:

Operating Private Foundations conduct their own charitable activities and may also give money to public charities that share their goals. Museums, libraries, think tanks, or research groups can all be Operating Private Charities and prominent examples include the Getty Trust and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Non-Operating Private Foundations solely give grants to other charitable organisations to help them achieve their goals. Examples include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is dedicated to global healthcare, poverty, education, and access to technology.

Corporate Foundations also give money to charities that share their goals or ethos, but all of their money comes from contributions from their profit-making business. They often have more say in how the charity spends its donations.


What kind of jobs do non-profits offer?

Non-profit organisations offer all the jobs that a normal business offers – the difference is that the overarching goal is charitable.

You could be employed in administration, marketing, IT, communications, HR, management, accounting, legal services, and many other areas.

Non-profit organisations also offer specialist or industry-specific job opportunities such as:

  • Lobbying
  • Research
  • Fundraising
  • Campaigning
  • Grant writers


And jobs which are specific to a particular charitable cause, such as:

  • Managing director of a museum
  • Teacher for a non-profit private school
  • Support giver for cancer survivors
  • Co-ordinator for disaster relief
  • Art therapist for a drug rehabilitation centre
  • Production assistant for an arts foundation
  • Vet for an animal rescue centre
  • Housing organizer for a homeless charity
  • Doctor for an overseas health charity


Do the staff still get paid?

Yes! The organisation itself doesn’t make a profit, but the employees are still paid for their work, just like a normal business. Some organisations also employ additional volunteers, and many don’t.

What is the pay like?

Salaries vary. Some non-profits can’t afford high salaries; the reward comes from job satisfaction. However, many offer competitive salaries in order to attract highly skilled and talented employees.

What about benefits?

Working for a non-profit isn’t just about the pay. The main perk is the immense job satisfaction and fulfilment you get from making a difference to a particular cause. On top of this, many non-profits offer other attractive workplace benefits including an honest corporate culture, a supportive, respectful, and fun working environment, the encouragement of new ideas and a high appreciation of their staff.

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