Hi everyone, I got feedback from my ED friend, Director Lee, that I spend too much time pointing out the challenges of the field and not enough time on the good stuff that happens. “Vu,” she wrote, “I am enjoying your posts. But you gotta talk about the good stuff too. We aren’t all scraping by and exhausted all the time. Sometimes it’s fun too!” All right all right, I’ll try to be more positive, starting with today’s post. Here are the top 10 reasons why our work is so totally awesome, like the best work ever on earth. They are in no particular order. Add your reasons for why you love nonprofit work in the comment section.
- It’s never boring. I have no idea what each day will be like. Can you imagine a job where you do the same thing every single day? I can, and in fact, I’ve worked in a couple of them. And I’d rather eat my own arms than do that again. Each day in nonprofit work is like a snowflake. For instance, one day you could be focused on a grant, another day you could be planning a special event, hiring someone, talking to a client, tutoring a kid, having a committee meeting, listening to a panel, being on a panel, whittling small animals out of soap, all of the above, welding, fixing the toilet, painting walls, cooking clam chowder, or quietly napping on your fold-out cot while your staff stuff thank-you letters.
- It’s flexible. We have a lot of leeway with our schedules. My corporate friends are all like “I only have 30 minutes for lunch.” Eating lunch for only 30 minutes at the same time each day? Oh hell no. I like a leisurely two-hour lunch where I could chew my organic kale and enjoy every bite, and then do my work later at home. The flexibility is especially great for us exempt staff, who can work whatever hours we like, as long as they add up to 60 hours each week.
- You learn and use all sorts of skills. Because we are so understaffed—I mean, because there are so many opportunities, we get to learn and hone all sorts of cool skills. A Development Director can learn HR, a Finance Director can learn fundraising and program development and astrology, a Program Coordinator can learn botany and ornithology, an ED can learn finance and marketing and janitorial skills, etc.
- It is casual everyday! Look around at your colleagues. Where else can you dress this way and still be considered a respected professional? I wear jeans every single day, and each stain on my shirt is a badge of honor. See this red blotch on this shirt from Ross Dress for Less? That’s from serving our after-school program kids a lunch of pasta one time. That red blotch says “I did something that made the world better…and I should have used my Tide bleach pen sooner.”
- Nonprofit people are all unicorns. We get to meet and work with amazing people every day, people so ridiculously inspiring and awesome that our souls grow warmer and fuzzier just by being around them. People who are working each day to make the world better. Good-looking, intelligent people with great dental hygiene.
- There are far fewer jackasses. Conversely, there are relatively few A-holes in the field. I mean, they exist, and you will definitely have to resist the urge to punch them in the mouth and take away their sticky dots before they suggest and vote on something stupid at a retreat, but I think there is a far smaller number in our field.
- We are making the world better. I know, we hear that all the time, especially in our heads as we cry ourselves softly to sleep after failing to get a critical grant or something, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Dude, it’s still true! Our work directly helps to make people’s lives better, less lonely, less scary, warmer, fuller of color and music and happiness and sometimes, bunnies.
- Ideas matter. Because we are flexible and surrounded by awesome people, ideas are much more likely to be taken into consideration and acted upon. In the corporate world, from what I hear, it could take you years to build your credentials and climb your way up before your awesome idea sees the light of day. Here, if you have a good idea, chances are you could find some kick-ass partners and funders and get it done. This is why I’m going to be pitching to the board my brilliant idea of starting a teeth tattoo parlor as an earned income venture.
- There is fame and adoration and bragging rights. Ok, maybe not fame or adoration, but maybe respect and some admiration among your friends who are stuck in a cubicle wondering what the meaning of life is and cool things you are doing to make the world better. Sure they get paid better, but really, many are envious of us, and that is totally worth the less fancy vacations and houses and cars and healthcare and organic blueberries, etc.,
- Unlimited hummus. That’s right, unlimited hummus. We go to a lot of meetings, and there is always creamy, delicious hummus, usually served with pita wedges and baby carrots. All the hummus you can eat. Sometimes it’s spicy hummus. Sometimes it’s roasted red pepper or sun-dried tomatoes flavored. One time it was toasted pine nuts flavored. Toasted pine nuts, you guys! Do people in other fields get this much hummus? I doubt it.
There you go, our field is cool and so is everyone in it. Sure, there are tons of challenges and we are stressed frequently. But I agree with my friend Director Lee, it can be lots of fun. I love this work and the people I get to work with. I mean it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. At least, not until my teeth tattoo idea takes off.
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Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.