MOST businesses and companies exist to make a dollar for their owners and shareholders. They operate for profit, and that motivation goes a long way towards determining how both the company and its staff operate.
The not-for-profit sector, aside from the obvious dollar-related difference, also puts a different expectation on its staff.
While any business will expect its staff to look after clients and customers, in the not-for-profit sector, doing so is the absolutely priority.
A not-for-profit can make a profit, and staff are remunerated fairly for their work, but any profit made must be applied towards the organisation's purpose (either directly or retained to contribute towards a future project).
Staff must be paid fairly, and can expect to earn less than they would in a similar role in a for-profit organisation, particularly in senior executive roles.
So if you're likely to be earning less, why work for a charitable organisation?
Perhaps the largest motivator is the opportunity to align your personal values with those of your employer. Not-for-profits are often under-resourced, meaning staff will be challenged to produce more with less. You'll achieve more in those circumstances if you truly believe in the cause.
If, however, you're considering the move as a means of giving back, it might be wise to take a step back and reassess - you might be better off volunteering or supporting the organisation through donations rather than redirecting your career entirely.
Recent employment figures are hard to come by, with the latest official data set from the Australian Bureau of Statistics issued in 2009, for the 2006/7 financial year. Those figures still highlight the size of the not-for-profit sector in Australia.
At the end of June 2007, there were more than 41,000 not-for-profit organisations operating in Australia, employing more than 889,000 people.
More than 21% of these were religious organisations, and a further 20% culture and recreation organisations.
Social services and education and research organisations accounted for almost half of total employment.
On top of the paid employees, a further 2.18 million people were recorded as volunteers in the same period.
If you're set on joining the ranks of the not-for-profits, try volunteering first.
You'll get a feel for the organisation and how it operates, and a better sense of how your skills align with the operation.