When I interviewed Jessica Fleskes, she discussed what it was like to work in the non-profit sector. Though she is now working with Save the Children in Myanmar, in the past she has spent time working for other organizations including Doctors without Borders, the Global Fund, and UNICEF. When discussing her time with these, she also discussed the common culture and a defining characteristic for these organizations.
One of the aspects that she highlights is that the people that work in these organizations are hardworking and dedicated. They make themselves available, especially for organizations that require travel at a moment’s notice. The people are dedicated to the cause and do not work just to get a paycheck.
This hardworking mentality, according to Fleskes, can have a drawback. Sometimes, people get too lost in the cause and overwork themselves. This is especially in America, where taking extended time off is seen as taboo. Therefore, people need to look after themselves and take breaks.
Though this culture of dedication can be too much at times, it is very important for how non-profit organizations work, especially those that deal with foreign aid. There are many instances where it is necessary to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if there is a new crisis to deal with. Fleskes also mentioned the competitiveness of the non-profit sector. In recent years, there has been an influx of organizations and there is limited funding for these organizations that is based on grants and donations. This is another reason being dedicated to the cause is important: if you are competing with other deserving organizations for money, you have to really believe in what you’re doing.
It is also important to be dedicated to the cause because a lot of the work can be dull. She talked about how a lot of the work is computer work and the higher up you get in the organization, the more you end up sitting behind a desk. The more rewarding work is the work in the field. With Doctors without Borders, Fleskes said meeting her patients was the most rewarding. Designing programs for the Muslim children in the North of Myanmar is the part that she, and many others like her like about the job. The monotony of paperwork and sorting out the budget and more day to day operations are much less rewarding but nonetheless important in the industry.
The culture and importance of hardworking and dedicated individuals in the non-profit cannot be understated. It is one of the defining characteristics of the non-profit sector and could even be considered a requirement for the industry.