Working for Not-for-Profits
Amy ByrneThey are not jobs that will make you a millionaire and are unlikely to come with a fancy office and platinum company credit card, but the not-for-profit sector is proving increasingly attractive to jaded corporates and altruistic Gen X and Y professionals.
The grouping known as the third sector of the Australian economy - after private and public - is broad, incorporating charities and cause-driven organisations but also sporting and professional associations, hospitals, aged-care operators, independent schools, research institutes and "social enterprise" operations.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics study on 1999/2000 figures found there were almost 600,000 people, or nearly 7 per cent of the national workforce, employed in 31,000 not-for-profit organisations. An update in July is expected to show that the sector has grown even more.
Not-for-profit is a diverse grouping, and has struggled to attract top corporate talent due to its lower pay scales, the perception that it doesn't offer the same opportunities for career escalation as the private sector, and the disincentive of being overseen by well-intentioned but often amateurish volunteer boards.
But not-for-profit boards are increasingly run along corporate governance lines and business high-fliers, perhaps influenced by a Bill Gates or a Chris Cuffe, are starting to migrate across, looking for an opportunity to, as finance whiz Cuffe once put it, "swap success for relevance".
Karen Mahlab, a business publisher who also runs Pro Bono Australia, a company that provides not-for-profit organisations with services such as free online job listings and volunteer matching, has noticed the shift.
"People are looking for job satisfaction and to make a difference to the world. They want to be able to work in collaborative environment rather than one that is necessarily competitive all the time. And I think the not-for-profit sector offers that," she says.
Philip Mayers, a human resources consultant with Silverman Dakin who specialises in recruiting executives for the not-for-profit sector, says younger generations tend to be more values-driven but there has been a marked increase in interest in the sector from managers in their 40s and 50s who are re-evaluating their lives.
"They are people who are tired of making money for the boss to drive a new BMW and would rather see it going into the community," he says. "They have proved themselves in business, they have got rid of the mortgage and the private school fees and they want to do something that will add to the value of society."
Such people, however, have to be prepared for a substantial pay cut. The annual remuneration survey by the not-for-profit support group Enterprise Care found CEOs earned an average of about $145,000 last year and financial controllers $90,000, well short of the salaries on offer in the private sector.
There are lucrative jobs in not-for-profit but even then, says Mayers, executives earning $200,000 to $300,000 will typically sacrifice $100,000 to $200,000.
"At the top end they are usually down by about a third to a half," he says. "Even at the lower end of the pay scale they will still be earning less, unless they are on an award, like nurses and teachers. A secretary might get $40,000 instead of $45,000."
Not only will they be earning less, but they will likely find that crossing over to the not-for-profit sector is a one-way career path. "Once you've worked in not-for-profit, the for-profit sector seems to take a dim view of you," Mayers says. "I've done close on 400 executive placements and I'm struggling to think of one of them who has gone back to private."
Nevertheless, there are plenty of people prepared to take the plunge and Care Australia CEO Julia Newton-Howes says she is often pleasantly surprised at the calibre of job applicants, given the sector's inability to match corporate remuneration.
"Our employees are not on the breadline - we have to pay a reasonable level of remuneration to get good people - but we are not attracting people who are highly motivated by money," she says.
Care has about 90 Australian employees here and overseas, and Newton-Howes says an altruistic attitude is evident among frontline aid workers and office staff alike.
Similarly, Greenpeace human resources co-ordinator Deb Henderson says every one of the organisation's 100-odd employees, from accountants and direct-marketers to activists on board anti-whaling ships, has a commitment to the environment. "They see working for Greenpeace as a privilege," she says.
Employees of charities can get salary tax breaks and many organisations boast a good workplace culture. Greenpeace, for instance, has a 35-hour week, flexible hours, parental leave, work-from-home opportunities, additional holidays at Christmas and overseas job swaps.
Career changers may also find the sector more amenable to people crossing disciplines. Mayers has placed a real estate agent in a university fund-raising job and a banker as a religious administrator. There is the lure of power and prestige, too, in the sector's blue-ribbon jobs, such as those heading up professional organisations, research institutes and top private schools.
"If you are CEO of the Australian Medical Association, you are mixing with top doctors, top professors, top people in government," Mayers says.
Making a difference becomes a mission
Stephen Hare left the mining industry on the cusp of the boom that made many of his former colleagues very wealthy, but the former state National Trust chief executive has no regrets about trading the corporate world for the not-for-profit sector.
Hare had 25 years with international accounting houses, and a high-level position with a major mining company before taking the National Trust job about eight years ago - lured by interest as a long-standing board member and a personal desire to step off the corporate treadmill for a while. He took a pay cut of about a third and intended to stay only a short time but "the mission took over" and seven years later he was still there. "The mission does tend to capture your imagination at the expense of other things," he says.
After leaving the Trust last year he considered returning to the business world, but felt he might have been typecast by his time in not-for-profit. In the end he stayed within the sector, taking what he regarded as a challenging role as general manager of the Victorian Bar.
Carolyn Moorshead has been head-hunted into and out of the not-for-profit sector. The former retail marketer took a job with the Spastic Centre because it presented an opportunity to change industries. She was head-hunted back into the private sector, to work for building and architectural groups for several years, before being sought out for her current job as business development manager for Seeing Eyes Dogs Australia. The hook was her love of dogs, but she also finds it professionally stimulating.
"You can't really rest on your laurels in a situation like this, there's no bucket of money to pay your wages and fund the organisation. You have to go out and find it, and that's quite an adrenalin rush," she says.
Moorshead says she would be disappointed if future prospective employers saw her not-for-profit employment as a black mark, but is prepared to risk that because she loves her job.
ANNA Kopinski, a successful former banker who set herself a 10-year goal to move into a not-for-profit job, speaks glowingly of her six-month-old role as a manager of donors and bequests with a national gallery. "I have savoured every day," she says.
"I enjoy building the relationship with donors, as it means that I am also contributing to the enrichment of the community."
Article from The Weekend Australian