The Third Sector is not “Non-Profit”

On June 2, I had the pleasure of attending an event sponsored by Nefesh b’Nefesh, Hebrew University, and the Jerusalem Municipality entitled: “Build Your Career in Jerusalem!”. (I apologize for the delay in posting this article; most off my posts recently were my series on Dan Pallotta’s “TED Talk”.) 
 
The event was very well-organized, and I give kudos to all those involved in organizing it. The first part of the event was: “Can Studying at Hebrew U get Me a Career?” This was not so relevant to me, as I hold a B.A. and am looking for a job now. 
 
The next section was “Your Job Search, do it right!”, which was a panel discussion featuring Leah Aharoni (Marketing Coach at Love Your Biz), Shara Shetrit (“Social Media Maestro”), and Orly Rosenblum (founder of LEAP Recruitment and Placement). Each woman spoke very well on her designated topic. However, I personally don’t think I heard anything new, as most of the tips and advice I have already received from my amazing career counselor 🙂 But still, it’s good to know that you are on the right track. 
 
The next section was called “Industries Unplugged”, and featured the non-profit industry, the web-marketing/SEO industry, and the Hi Tech industry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jonny Cline of UK Toremet was the featured speaker for the non-profit industry (and, luckily for me, he spoke first! 🙂 ) Jonny and I first “met” on LinkedIn, and we are both members of the Fundraisers Forum (which I wrote about in my last post). 
 
What Jonny had to say really got my attention. He started off by saying that the “third sector” is NOT “non-profit”. Jonny stated that the word “non-profit” is used for charities because there isn’t really an exact word to describe third sector organizations. But he feels that “non-profit” is not the correct term, because we in the “non profit/third sector” world ARE trying to make a profit- for our organizations and their causes. So, for the purpose of this article, I will use the term “third sector”, but I think the name of my blog will still stay “Non-Profit Musings” 🙂  
 
Jonny informed us that there are 30,000 third sector organizations in Israel, employing 10% of the Israeli workforce. (That’s a lot of people making low wages, according to the recent study done by Ben Gurion University, which I wrote about not long ago.) What was also interesting was that Jonny shared the statistic that in the last year Israel received $3.25 BILLION in philanthropic funding, but less than $0.7 billion was raised locally. (I think this is a topic for a separate post 🙂 )
 
Jonny expressed that he feels that the third sector field is still learning the following items:
 
– How to act professionally
– How to assess/evaluate
– How to use technology to its full advantage (database software, etc.)
– How to improve its cultivation and stewardship of employees
 
Those 4 statements say a lot. And I have to agree with him. In terms of “acting professionally”, I think that perhaps one of the issues in the third sector (specifically in Israel) is that, especially in smaller organizations, there is not a human resource manager on staff, to whom employees can turn if they are having an issue. Even if this job is “outsourced” to a board member (i.e. volunteer), I think that there is more potential for a professional human resource manager to have an unbiased opinion. I think that sometimes people can “get away with things” in the third sector, because there isn’t a staff person whose job it is to make sure that everyone is held to a certain standard of professionalism. 
 
Regarding “assessing and evaluating”, I again agree with Jonny’s opinion. If certain campaigns/events/groups/plans (whatever it may be) are not working out or are not worth the staff’s and volunteers’ time and energy, then I think that each activity should be evaluated as to whether or not it is worth investing the time again. I think sometimes third sector organizations continue doing certain annual projects because “we’ve always done it”. Perhaps it’s because the volunteers want the project/event. But in any case, I think everything should be reviewed on an annual basis to see what activities make sense to continue with, both financially and in terms of man-power (staff time). 
 
When Jonny spoke about using technology to its full advantage, at first I wasn’t sure what he was referring to. I have seen plenty of employees in the third sector with IPads, smart phones, mini laptops, etc. But then he went on to clarify that he meant using technologies such as database software. On this point, I have to agree. I think it is rare that the decision-makers in the third sector understand the importance and critical-ness of having a functioning donor database that suits the organization’s needs. I would venture to guess that perhaps this is because the “decision-makers” are not the ones using the database ….
 
Jonny’s last point was regarding the cultivation and stewardship of employees. I think this is partially proven by the study done by Ben Gurion University (which I recently posted about), which states that under 40% of employees work more than two years in their organization. I felt justified to hear Jonny say this, because from what I have seen (especially in Israel), most third sector organizations do not have a structure for promotion (I have also posted about this before). But even though I felt “justified” to hear an established professional in the third sector expressing the same opinion that I hold, the situation itself is a problem that must be resolved. 
 
Jonny moved on to mention that in his experience in the third sector in Israel, employers typically want to hire you for the same position you just held (at another company), and are less likely to “take a chance” on someone who wants to advance. B”H, I must say, that has not been my experience. I have been lucky to have been invited on many interviews for positions that would be considered a “step up” for me. This may also be because I refuse to apply for a job that is “on the same level” of what I did in the past. I’ve put in a good 5+ years in the third sector, and while I have held positions that were very challenging and demanding (“Rosh Gadol”, as we say in Israel), they always held also “Rosh Katan” aspects (more menial tasks). While I certainly recognize the importance of every task in the third sector, I personally feel that I have “paid my dues” and am ready to advance to a position that does not include administrative tasks.  
 
Jonny concluded by asking, so with all this going on, why would anyone want to work in the third sector? His answer is: job satisfaction (even though he jokingly showed us a slide of a story from January 2013 in “The Chronicle of Philanthropy”-“Half of Fundraisers in the Top Job Would Like to Quit”. I think this will be a blog post on its own 🙂 ). But I agree with Jonny. I think those of us who choose to work in the third sector are all (at least partially) idealists, and want to “help make the world a better place”. I know I could be making more money working in the for-profit sector (or “second sector”, as Jonny would say; “first sector” is government), but when I think about how I want to spend the 8+ hours a day/5 days a week at work, I know that I want to do something that I feel “makes a difference” (that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be compensated appropriately for my skills and my work! 🙂 ) 
 
There were further presentations on the web-marketing/SEO field and the Hi Tech field, but I must admit that I discreetly sneaked out in order to go to my choir practice 🙂 (although the other fields were not as relevant to my particular interests). 
 
I’d love to hear your opinion on Jonny’s presentation (and my comments as well).
 
Chava Ashkenazi
Jerusalem, Israel  
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3 Responses to The Third Sector is not “Non-Profit”

  1. Esti says:

    Hey Chava,
    Thanks for a great post. You really highlight the idealisim of non-profit professionals working in sometimes difficult situations because they believe in the cause!! I also think you make an important point about the need for evaluation.. We tend to associate goals and assessments with the for profit world but surely it’s just as important to maximise are productivity when we are making money for those in real need

  2. Simona Kedmi says:

    I enjoyed reading your posts and would like to correspond and exchange views. You can email me to: talp-dev@zahav.net.il

  3. chavaleh1127 says:

    Thanks for the feedback, and sorry for the delayed response. I was out of the country and am just now getting back into the “swing of things”.

    Esti, thanks for your comment! I think we can agree that when a staff is small (i.e. resources are limited) it is especially important to evaluate each activity (be it a campaign, event, etc.) to make sure that the outcome is worthwhile for all the time and effort which will be invested by the staff and volunteers.

    Simona, thanks for reaching out! I’ll be happy to contact you by e-mail 🙂

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