THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Non-profits: Less important than great work

My ex-husband worked in the nonprofit sector for a while. And you know what? He rarely got health insurance. At one point, we were completely stressed out about not being insured, and he asked his boss what everyone else was doing, and she said, "Can't you get insurance from your spouse? That's what we do."

That's appalling. Luckily, the difference between not-for-profit and for profit is becoming more and more artificial.

For example, the Gates Foundation was established to get the money out of the hands of one family and give it to people who can change the world with the money. 

Merck, on the other hand, is changing the world by curing diseases, but they need to create a profit in order to keep their stock price up and pass money on to shareholders.

Both companies are solving huge health problems. So, here is a new way to think about careers:

1. Work where you're valued

It's really dangerous to think there are vastly different motivators in the non-profit world. You'll notice that in the for-profit world, in the new workplace, money is not a key motivator. You should not work where someone does not value you (and pay a living wage), and you should not work where you do not find meaning.

I think we should all be careful of dividing the world into meaningful non-profits and soulless corporations. If your boss comes to work every day genuinely looking to help you grow, and you do the same for the people you manage, then that's a great workplace.

2. Give where it counts

Just because a company is a non-profit doesn't mean it's not a wasteland. Example: United Way persists with their umbrella model of taking money from the community, through a monopoly-type system with corporations, and then deciding which smaller organizations will get money.

They are middlemen, skimming off the top. And in the age of Internet, we can all decide where to give, and give directly., on the other hand, is raking in profits. And they give employees time off to serve the community directly. The employees choose what to do. There is no overhead because is eating the costs themselves. It is totally efficient.

3. Choose a job you love

Being in a job you love allows you to generate income, and good will, and to cultivate a sense of gratitude to the world. Which means you'll give back no matter what.

4. Earning money is path to good

The Robin Hood Foundation
is famous for inventing a more direct route to doing good. It's a room full of people who are bidding to build things like a new shelter for the homeless ($470,000, raised in a few hours) And 100 percent of their money goes directly to that project. It's the hedge fund industry's way of giving back. And it's just like their day job: brash, fast, high-flying, full of peer pressure, and extremely fun.

Or here's another model. Earn money and buy board seats at companies that don't respect the benefits of diversity, and then you can force diversity on them as a shareholder. That's pretty direct. 


When you talk about your career, talk about doing good, for sure. But recognize that we are each capable of doing good from wherever we are. And each of us is capable of being fulfilled in a wide range of jobs. Grow your career with an open mind: you'll find more opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Hat tip: The Non-Profit Discussion on Brazen Careerist, (where I might have been annoying to everyone; but still, I learned a lot from the conversation.)


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.