Job and career options : Nonprofit careers

The nonprofit sector is also known as the independent sector or the third sector. Its traditional and overriding purposes are to fill gaps in services and goods available to people. These are gaps left by the private sector, which doesn't provide particular goods and services because they aren't profitable. Or they are gaps left by the government, which doesn't provide goods and services for political, budgetary, or other reasons.
 
AmeriCorps and VISTA members serve in nonprofits such as the American Red Cross, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, food banks, Habitat for Humanity, United Way, I Have a Dream Foundation, YWCAs and YMCAs. In the United States, around 1.2 million nonprofit organizations are registered with the Internal Revenue Service (the taxing arm of the federal government).
 
The term "nonprofit" refers to the IRS tax code classifications for organizations that use community resources to address a range of issues within the U.S.:
  • 501(c)(3)—majority of nonprofits; show broad public support and work on a wide array of issues; donations are tax-deductible
  • 501(c)(4)—advocacy work, lobbying
  • 501(c)(6)—professional and trade associations

Common nonprofit characteristics

  • The purpose of nonprofits is to serve society, not to make money.
  • Volunteers make up a large percentage of the nonprofit sector labor force, extending the human resource capability of the organization.
  • Nonprofits depend on fundraising to survive.
  • Salaries are generally 15 to 20 percent lower than for comparable work in the private sector.
  • Success and productivity are measured by how well the organization achieves its mission, not on its profitability.
  • Outcomes can be difficult to measure.

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