Non Profit Work Culture

As you begin your nonprofit job search, you might hear the term “non profit culture” or “organizational culture,” which refers to the way in which organizations encourage their employees to interact with each other and with their managers.

Nonprofit culture can be casual or formal, depending on the nature of the work. Because nonprofit organizations often work with diverse populations, a “corporate” culture (suits and ties) is not always appropriate. Therefore, in the past few decades nonprofit organizations have focused on creating an work atmosphere that is both professional and suits the organization’s “personality.”

What is “nonprofit culture”?

In the nonprofit workforce, employees tend to be diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, politics, and pretty much everything else. Yet, nonprofit culture does not necessarily refer specifically to any of these things, but rather how they come together to create a particular environment. It’s important to note that there is not necessarily one nonprofit culture for everyone organization, but rather each one takes the issue at hand, the constituents and the employees into consideration to create a culture that is best for the organization.

How does “nonprofit culture” affect my job search?

While hard skills and qualifications (not to mention networking) can be what lands you your dream nonprofit job, it is also important to consider the culture of the culture of the organization while you are researching organizations and going on nonprofit job interviews. It is important to know upfront whether the style and “fit” of the organization is right for you. For example, many nonprofit organizations have an “open door policy”, that is, employees should be free to approach managers with questions at any time. If you are someone who is stricter with how they use their time, you will want to consider those style differences.

How do I ask about culture at the job interview?

Most organizations will be free and open about their office environment and culture; many organizations are very proud of their culture and employees!
The best way to get a clear sense of how an organization operates is to just ask – you can be as direct as you need to! Asking a question like “What is the culture? Are people collaborative? Is it a friendly environment?” is perfectly okay. You can even take it a step further by asking about how staff members and volunteers outside of the office environment. Offices that regularly attend social gatherings together and enjoy spending time together on non-work related things can generally indicate a friendly in office environment as well.

Should I accept a job based on “cultural fit”?

There are many opinions on the idea of nonprofit culture and how important it really is to future job success. While most would argue that it is certainly something to consider, the culture of a nonprofit organization should not necessarily be your deciding factor when looking for a nonprofit job. If you have found the perfect job in terms of service area, responsibilities, flexibility, upward mobility (and all of the other important factors!) and are unsure about the culture of the organization, don’t be afraid to take the job and be yourself! People can easily adapt to different types of work environments – and often do.

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