Business is business, but anyone working in the nonprofit space will tell you that it’s drastically different than any for-profit company. A new role in a new industry can be overwhelming, so we took to our own team to gather some insight.
Katlin Bewley (above, far right) is an Account Manager who came to Gesture (now GiveSmart by Community Brands) after four years at Together We Cope, a homeless prevention agency based in Tinley Park, IL.
Q: What are some of the most noticeable differences between working at a nonprofit and a for-profit company?
A: Going to work each day, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Your task at hand changes every day and often you’re helping everyone at the office including people in different departments and on different committees depending on where support is needed the most. At Together We Cope, we had two buildings: one where our clients went and one for admin members. Because I was the fundraising manager, I worked in the admin building. However, coming from a case management background, I was sometimes asked to help out at the client building during busy weeks so I was jumping between the two buildings a lot.
Q: What surprised you the most when you entered the nonprofit world?
A: I was initially surprised by how many volunteers there were. There were volunteers who were retired from their full-time jobs but came every Monday – Friday to work in our food pantry and were there consistently every week. Volunteers are the number one resource for nonprofits.
Q: What’s something that stands out to you from your time at Together We Cope?
A: We had the roof at the food pantry cave in over the weekend a few years ago. We were all called in on Monday in our sweats, t-shirts, and sneakers to help clean up the mess. At many for-profit companies, tasks like these would be outsourced to specialists. However, at a nonprofit organization, every dollar matters. The more you can save, the more goes to your clients and so we worked to remedy the situation ourselves. Another example of this is with the invitations to our big fundraising initiative. Normally, for-profit companies would hire someone to stuff envelopes with invitations and put stamps on and mail them out for a 400-person gala, but we did this to save money.
Q: What challenges do nonprofit organizations face?
A: Money, money, money. You have to use a low budget to put on an amazing fundraising event to fund your year, and it’s hard but you find a way and the volunteers are crucial to making this happen.
Q: What are some tips that you have for those starting out in the nonprofit world?
A: Get your friends and family involved as volunteers! Initially, your friends and family will start volunteering to help you out, but then they become attached to the cause and want to help out the organization and not just you as their friend or family member. My mom started volunteering when I started working there and she would help out every so often. Now, she runs the entire Christmas program and this year she was awarded the volunteer of the year award!
Q: Anything else?
A: Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that currently work or have worked in nonprofit organizations. They’ll be able to offer a lot of advice specific to your role and even your organization’s niche.
Q: Any fun facts you want to share?
A: Together We Cope was one of Gesture’s first clients! This partnership started in 2014 and working with a mobile fundraising technology company made my job as a fundraising manager much simpler. The platform helps with everything from event organization to ticketing to item management and it’s a great way for smaller nonprofits to manage their fundraising efforts.