Recently I was commended for my work in the nonprofit sector. Often underlying these compliments is the notion that I was sacrificially answering some higher calling than a typical for-profit job. These perceptions help neither the nonprofit or the for-profit effort. Whether you work in a for-profit daycare center or a nonprofit daycare center your job is equally important and beneficial to society. Whether you are a nurse in a nonprofit hospital or a for-profit hospital your care for patients in equally significant and important. Whether you manage a local soup kitchen or the local Denny’s you are providing a valuable service to society. The value and importance of one’s work is not defined by whether all the profits must be retained by the organization as in the nonprofit’s case or retained by the owner(s) in the for-profit case. The clientele served by a nonprofit org or a for-profit org may be different. Or they may be the same. But at the end of the day the time, talents, and service provided are equally important.
Holding a higher view of work in the nonprofit sector as opposed to the for-profit sector handicaps the effectiveness of both workforces. In the nonprofit sector it helps perpetuate the notion and practice that the nonprofit organization’s staff should be paid less than similar jobs in the for-profit sector. This derives from the sacrificial notion of nonprofit work. It propagates a “do with less” philosophy within nonprofits. In the for-profit sector it comparatively undermines the value of work done by its workforce. All work is important if it produces a good or service which meets societies’ needs. And all should be rewarded equally! The only difference is the type of business vehicle society has designed to meet these needs. One is the nonprofit organization, the other the private for-profit organization. We need to reframe our views of both sectors by recognizing that both are conducting equally valuable business designed to meet societies’ needs.