Working with Nonprofits: Advantages and Drawbacks
At some point in your career as an independent IT contractor, someone will ask you to work for free. No, the person is not crazy — well, usually not. They might be from nonprofit organizations, which typically operate on an extremely tight budget and depend on large numbers of volunteers to operate. Working for free has its advantages, but like most things, philanthropy also has its downside. Weigh your options carefully before committing yourself.
As an independent, you also might be on a budget, particularly if you are just starting out, and you haven’t built a cache of clients to offer steady work. The notion of working for free simply might not be possible. After all, bills traditionally come around like clockwork, every 30 days, and as a rule, the utility company doesn’t care about for good works when it’s time to pay for your lights.
Working with nonprofits often means working with equipment that might be less than state of the art, but you might have to make due with the technology infrastructure available because there are limited funds with which to augment existing systems or initiate new strategies for productivity or efficiency improvements.
Committing yourself to a nonprofit job for free or for a fraction of your usual fees will almost certainly require a sacrifice because you should maintain your work ethic and professional behavior despite the potential informality of the work arrangement. Once you commit, even if the project grows beyond its prescribed bounds or the money dries up and the project is stalled, a good conscience will insist you continue working until the project is complete or you arrive at a reasonable stopping point.
If you are new to your niche in the technology industry, for a while, you might need to work for free — or for a pittance — to build a portfolio with which to convince a potential employer of your skills. Nonprofit assignments, regardless of the fee, are still legitimate work opportunities that you can use to showcase your technical and project management skills.
A nonprofit assignment can offer networking opportunities and connect you with individuals who can help you round out your technical education. Whether the skill building occurs on the job in a living lab-type environment, intangible value add-ons such as soft skill improvement, relationship building or potential job leads, can make a poorly paid nonprofit project more attractive.
When you offer something for nothing, you might get gratitude, as well as freedom to try new things or to be creative with technical solutions. Nonprofits can offer opportunities to learn new skills in a less stressful, less do-or-die environment.
Finally, one of the most obvious advantages of taking on a nonprofit assignment is undoubtedly a warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from successfully executing a selfless act. Donating your time and expertise to create or improve something that ultimately will help others, especially when you can easily peddle your technical skills elsewhere for top dollar, also makes for a nice conversation starter in your next new client meeting.
· National Opportunity Nonprofit Organization Classifieds
· Nonprofit Charitable Organizations