The Top 12 Reasons to Work in Nonprofit

work nonprofit

I couldn’t find a pic that said Top 12

Perhaps by now you’ve seen the Tumblr site, When You Work At A Nonprofit. The site positions nonprofit work in the grimmest (and most hilarious) of lights. It has gone viral with 100,000 views and scores of submissions daily. It is brutally honest and laugh out loud funny.

It’s clever and I really wish I had come up with it myself.

The founders, Leah Neaderthal and Leanne Pittsford hope that the site will lead to an improvement in nonprofit workplaces.

Me too.

But they have made the option of working at a nonprofit seem, well… horrifying.

As someone who joined the nonprofit space in my late 30s, I believe deeply that nonprofit work is way less than horrifying.

While Leah and Leanne guide you down Irreverent Lane, please join me for a stroll down Schmaltzy Blvd.


#12:  You learn how to maneuver and manipulate difficult people with big egos and get them to do what you want (i.e. good stuff).

#11:  You become a teacher. You have the chance to go home and share with friends and loved ones the stories of your work and your clients, educating them about the magnitude of the issue your organization grapples with.

#10:  You rest your weary head on your pillow each night knowing that it could be worse. You could have a job at a Chinese restaurant filling small cups with soy sauce.

#9:  You develop critical skills in diplomacy, managing wildly disparate stakeholders with different ideas and agendas (and you pray that they never invent something that makes thought balloons visible to the naked eye.)

#8:  You learn what separates really classy centerpieces from really tacky ones.

#7:  You find out how incredible it is to work every day with others who care deeply about their work.

#6:  If you ever work for a gay nonprofit, you learn that gay people may be bullied, harassed, unprotected by federal employment discrimination and have a higher incidence of suicide than any population but that they are the funniest people ever. (And they will make sure you never wear anything tacky to a major donor fundraiser.)

#5:  You meet the most amazing people with the most remarkable stories that will stick with you forever. And I’m not just talking about clients. I’m talking about staff and what brought them to you. I’m talking about board members and their journeys. I’m talk about donors small and large and moving and often surprising paths that led them to you.

#4:  As a board member, you meet people you would never have met otherwise. You arrive thinking you might be the smartest person in the room. And then you realize you’re not. And instead of being irritated, you are just simply impressed.

#3:  You remember that people are three dimensional and not just workers. They have lives and stories and families they carry with them every day. And what they carry makes them rock stars.

#2:  Even if you find that nonprofit staff or board work is not for you, you can look back and say without hesitation that you devoted your time and energy to something that really and truly mattered. A life without this is simply not a life well led.

#1  People watch. And they listen. I talk to my family about the clients I serve — about the scope and magnitude of human sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, about the AIDS epidemic (yup, still an epidemic), about gay teen suicide, about the lack of access to higher education for marginalized communities, about local nature centers, about the power of community centers to bring people together. I ask our friend Sylvia to talk over dinner about the night each month she works in a homeless shelter affiliated with her synagogue. I ask her to tell stories. And my children listen.

I believe that all who live in the nonprofit sandbox are teachers and role models. The joy we take in working every day on something we care deeply about should be contagious. We should be spreading it around.

We need to feel like we are part of a movement. A movement to repair the world. In Judaism, it’s called Tikkun Olum. It’s easier in English. Repairing the world.

One frustrating and joyful step at a time.


1. If you liked this post and think others would too, can I ask you to please share it? You can just click one of the icons below to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

2. Leave a comment below letting me know what you think are the top reasons for working in nonprofit.

3. Make sure to look at the Tumblr site that inspired this post (if you haven’t already) – When You Work At A Nonprofit. It really is quite funny.