Are you considering a new role with a non-profit organisation? Not sure where to start?
Over time, one can find that working in the commercial world somehow doesn’t fulfil us sufficiently – perhaps because we have a cause that we’re already committed to and want to support it more actively. Or we believe there is ‘more to life’ and we have more to give and we want to align our values with our work. Whatever motivates you to make a change, there are some fantastic resources around – whether you are new to the industry or a veteran looking for a new challenge, you’ll find tools and assistance from regular contributors.
Something things you might like to consider:
Passion for a cause
You can be drawn to any number of causes that encourage you to want to contribute in some way. Sometimes this passion can overwhelm us to the point that we feel that we ‘must’ do ‘something’ or we’ll explode. I was like this when I started my organisation Wild Tiger Fund. My passion to protect tigers from extinction consumed me (and drove my friends and family insane) for a number of years. I observed a similar response from many people who wanted to help after global disasters such as the Asian Tsunami. It is totally understandable and commendable. But. Ultimately passion for a cause alone is insufficient to make a long-term contribution. Without skills that the organisation or cause really needs, making a difference is very difficult and ultimately frustrating. So it’s as important to think as much about what skills you can offer as it is the choice of cause you want to support.
NFPs need the same skills and levels of professionalism as commercial organisations across all parts of the organisation. So what can you do? Are you an accountant, a direct marketer, a specialist in search engine optimisation? Matching your skills with the needs of the organisation is an important way to show that you understand what they are trying to achieve. When I recruited staff for an animal-focused organisation, a number of people interviewed were asked why they wanted to work for us. Their response: ‘because I love animals!’ was nice to know and helpful given the work but not the main reason we’d hire them.
And it’s not just your technical skills. In a NFP it’s often equally important that you understand how to engage and work with a variety of stakeholders. Consider your capacity to deal with the emotional impacts of the cause you’ll be working with as well as your educational skills. Working with an international aid organisation, in my earlier months I was very deeply affected by photographs of children affected by long-term drought in Africa. While I could never look at those pictures and be completely dispassionate, I needed to learn how to handle the emotional impact or I couldn’t have continued with my work.
Starting your own org
There are many reasons to start your own non-profit organisation – if you have found a cause that you just don’t think enough people are supporting; you think you can do more than others. Do consider though that there might be someone out there with a similar organisation who could use your skills (or funding) and may have resources you don’t have access to. There are also costs in setting up and running a successful organisation so look in to the pros and cons before you start down this road.
There are a number of great websites that can help you find work or find tools to help you in your current role. Here are some links that will get you started:
Started by Founder Karen Mahlab, Pro Bono Australia acts as a hub for people who want to engage with Australia’s Not for Profit organisations and community. They largely focus on charitable sector organisations rather than clubs or Associations.
If you want to find out about the newsworthy issues concerning the Not for Profit sector, volunteer your professional skills, get paid work in the sector, find a Not for Profit organisation to donate to, read about businesses and what they do to support resilient Australian communities, or if you are already working in the sector finding product and service providers who understand the particular needs of the sector – they are it.
The Our Community Group provides advice, connections, training and easy to use tech tools for people and organisations working to build stronger communities.
Their partners in that work are grant-makers (government and philanthropic), donors, enlightened businesses, community builders, and – of course – not-for-profit organisations themselves.
Our Community is Australia’s Centre for Excellence for the nation’s 600,000 not-for-profits and schools: where not-for-profits go for help.
The Australian Charities and Non-profits Commission is the independent national regulator of charities. The ACNC has been set up to achieve the following objects:
- maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the sector through increased accountability and transparency
- support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector
- promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector.
There are joys and challenges in working in the non-profit world. Aligning your values with your work life can add an extra dimension to your life that you may not have anticipated. Essentially, when your work is very important to you, it doesn’t feel quite so much like work! Consider what you can contribute and remember most not for profits really have a need for good skills and experience. Good luck in your search. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
November 27th 2011
It’s nearly Christmas…
How is it possible? Only 4 weeks or so til another year comes to a close and we think about new year resolutions made and long forgotten and set about making new ones.
I look back at my resolutions… one of which was to keep my blog up to date…hmmm didnt do too well on that. But instead of chastising myself on my failings, can I indulge myself a little by looking to my successes.
I have tried to help motivate my sister just a little bit with her fabulous business http://www.madamefrufru.com.au (very little really, she did 99.9% very much on her own); I helped my husband find the courage to look for a new job which he did successfully, gaining along the way the recognition he deserved for his talents; I worked hard to motivate and lead my team to a fabulous year of fundraising and constituency engagement and built their own talents at the same time. I got out there and gave two ‘Create the working life you love’ workshops… it was supposed to be more like 6 or 7 but hey, 2 was a good start 🙂 I spent a lovely two weeks with my mother on holiday in France (which she had only ever visited for 1 day and she lives just across the channel in England!) spending gentle quiet time together, sitting by a softly gurgling river, joined by butterflies and kingfishers.
Yes, i gained more pounds than i intended, only on my waist rather than my bank account, of course! And as for finishing my book… well that will have to wait another year I fear.
All in all, not a bad year… and they were just a few of the milestones. It’s good to look up from thinking about the future or the past and realise, right here in the present, you are happy with where you are.
31st July 2011 2pm
While travelling back from my latest overseas holiday, on the plane I saw a movie ‘Limitless’ where a down at heel, blocked writer is given a drug that boosts his intelligence by allowing him to access more of his brain. He becomes quicker, more aware, smarter. He finishes his novel in a week and makes a couple of million on the stock market just as fast.
It made me think about whether it was intelligence he gained or rather a more heightened state of motivation and a loss of fear. He essentially took a series of actions and didnt worry too much about the risk involved (sometimes stupidly but hey, that’s drugs for you!).
That sense of ‘cant fail’ is a powerful one and can get you doing things you have the capability to do but were too afraid to try. So i thought about the results he achieved and some of the actions he took and considered whether, by following those actions, anyone could get the benefits without the chemicals.
So. Here’s what he did:
1. Clean your house: he was living in squalor. No wonder he couldn’t write. Many people will tell you your external environment can reflect your internal state of being. If you’re living in a pigsty of confusion and mess, what is your brain doing? So consider cleaning up your apartment, house, office or desk before you set to work on your next big project. If nothing else, you’ll feel better when you continue to procrastinate. And hey, maybe you really will get inspired to work.
2. Focus on one thing: having multiple projects on the go is certainly how I go about things but if you really want to get something done, focus and concentrate on one thing at a time before moving on to the next thing. It’s the jumping from one thing to the next that prevents me from getting things done. I’ve found (and so did our hero) that it works to focus on achieving a goal. EG 1 page of your novel a day; one garden bed weeded; a first draft of that report. Focus and dont stop til you achieve your goal no matter how small.
3. Look for opportunities where others see only the negatives: Our hero in Limitless looked for stock opportunities in a falling financial market. Ok he could watch three computer screens of data at once and absorb columns of numbers in a single glance but even without these powers, we could all do some work on identifying the gap in the market and the market in the gap. Read up, watch the papers, raise your awareness of what’s happening in your world.
4. Know thine enemy: Again, our hero knew what his competitors were doing and could respond before they acted. If you have a business or you work in a job you enjoy, spend some time investigating your competitors, researching the market (yes, google is research) learn what the others are doing and see if you can use that information to help you grow your business or market or niche.
5. Get a haircut and a good suit: If you dress like a bag lady (and our hero did initially look like he last washed his hair in 1978), it is unlikely you will feel motivated to take any other action if you cant even be bothered to wear clean, well fitting clothes or have a decent hair cut. This is not about being salon perfect but about a sense of self respect. So get a haircut and a decent set of threads and look the part, whatever that part is for you. When you look in the mirror and see a set of clean white teeth and a well trimmed beard or flowing locks, you’ll feel better, believe me.
6. Make friends and go out: When I’m feeling a bit depressed and unmotivated, I want to stay home, drink tea and watch old black and white movies. While this is okay for a bit, ultimately what cheers me up is to get out and see some friends or make some new ones by joining in – go to a festival, a book reading, hear a band. Get out and meet some people.
I reckon any of us can do a few of these things – who needs pharmaceuticals! Enjoy 🙂
PS: And I recommend seeing Limitless …that leading man is cute!
We’ll spend more than one third of our lives working so it’s little wonder many of us strive to work in a job we love, spending time doing something that is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Before another year ends, take the time to consider what you want from your working life.
I’ve spent almost 14 years working in the NFP sector in Australia after almost the same period of time working with international advertising agencies including Leo Burnett Australia, Ogilvy & Mather Direct London and Lintas:Australia. I decided to make a values based career change when I moved to Oxfam Australia in 1997 and since then I truly feel my work and personal life are in synch – it was a heart-based career change.
If you are considering a similar move, it could be helpful to hear about how I made this change and about some of the planning and thought processes I went through. Attend one of these workshops and discover how to bring together your values with your career aspirations to create a really meaningful working experience.
No matter what type of career change you are considering, these workshops will help you consider how you go about:
Making a plan for change
Connecting your values with your work
Getting the help you need to make the change you want
Staying true to your vision
It could change the way you look at work in 2011
Workshops to be held in Melbourne, Australia
7th December 2010 5pm – 6.30pm
8th December 2010 7.30am – 9am