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The Pros and Cons of Working for a Nonprofit Later in Life

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels

If you’re like many seniors, you’ve spent your youth and middle age working towards retirement. Then, once you got there, you didn’t know what to do with yourself. With all of the bustle of work behind you and the children grown up and likely moved out, it can be difficult to find ways to pass the time — especially in a meaningful way.

If you’re retired and looking for a way to still make a difference, you’ve likely considered donating your time to charity work. Whether it’s an animal shelter, a soup kitchen, or even digging wells in developing countries, there are countless ways to give back to your region, nation, and the world.

However, while donating a few hours here and there is helpful, if you’re considering committing to applying to and working for a nonprofit, it’s important to consider some of the pros and cons that come with more professional nonprofit employment.

The Cons of Working in the Nonprofit Sector

Let’s start with the larger considerations of how working for a nonprofit, especially later in life, can impact you:

  • You still need to treat a nonprofit like a job: Just because it’s charity work doesn’t mean you can be flippant about your responsibilities. From grooming your resume and cleaning up your social profiles to help you catch the eye of a modern recruiter to showing up on time every day at work, you must be ready to take nonprofit work seriously over the long-term.
  • A nonprofit can weigh on your emotional state: Helping others who are struggling can lead to serious compassion fatigue. Fortunately, things like self-care and empathic discernment can help you curb its effects.
  • Nonprofit bureaucracies can be mentally exhausting: Charities, political organizations, and even churches all consist of legislative and governing bodies of humans. Cutting through rules and red tape — not to mention sorting out disagreements between team members — can be mentally draining. Maintaining an ability to be diplomatic and patient is key.
  • Nonprofits can take all of the physical labor you’ll give them: The nonprofit sector often deals with employee burnout and exhaustion. You must understand how much time and effort you can give. Also, make sure you’ve sorted out your medical coverage — either with the nonprofit, through Medicare, or both — especially if the work is potentially harmful or dangerous.

From mental strain to emotional and physical exhaustion, there are many factors to be carefully counted and considered before you apply to work at a nonprofit.

The Pros of Working in the Nonprofit Sector

Of course, for all of the concerns listed above, there is a myriad of benefits that can’t be lightly pushed aside.

  • The work is incredibly fulfilling: The ability to choose your job and invest yourself into something that you believe in sets the work in another category entirely from traditional for-profit employment.
  • You can work with kind, caring coworkers: Everyone has their bad days, but at least when you’re working with a nonprofit, you can be part of a team that is lovingly knit together by a common cause.
  • You can help those in need: It’s obvious, but true nevertheless. Working for a nonprofit allows you to give out of your abundance to those who need help.
  • You can stay busy and engaged: Rather than sinking into mind-numbing anonymity, a nonprofit allows you to use your retirement to remain active and engaged with the world in a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual manner.

The list of benefits could go on and on. Sure, chances are you’ll need to properly apply, be interviewed, and follow a strict work schedule. And yes, the work can be grueling at times and the pay is often pitiful or even nonexistent.

Nevertheless, nonprofits remain a viable option — especially if you’re retired and not concerned about monetary income. This is simply because they have so many positive benefits, both for those that they help and for their employees as well.

Working for a Nonprofit Later in Life

The last thing that you read is often the part that stays with you, and for that reason, it’s worth putting the pros last here. That isn’t to trick you into forgetting the cons so much as to end on the most important part of your nonprofit considerations.

The truth is, working at a nonprofit is an extremely fulfilling experience. Does it require a lot of pain and sacrifice? At times, absolutely. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it enables you to truly make a difference. It provides you with immensely satisfying work while simultaneously allowing you to bolster a nonprofit organization and aid those who look to it for help.

If you’re thinking of joining a nonprofit later in life, it’s something that should never be taken lightly. With that said, the benefits for everyone involved most certainly outweigh the responsibilities, making it an excellent way to fill your time in retirement.

Tim Esterdahl

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Integrated Family Community Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Financial Accountability

IFCS’ Tax ID # 84-0579740