General Question

tedibear's avatar

What would you look for in a non-profit organization as a potential employer?

Asked by tedibear (18715points) November 16th, 2015

How do you know if it is a reputable organization? Where can I go to find that information?

With a for-profit business, I can check places like or find public reviews on Yelp.

I have found a job listing that sounds interesting and more fulfilling than my current job. I want to avoid stepping into a bad situation if possible. I know that can happen in any job, but I feel that I should do some research first.

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11 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I would try to investigate their funding sources. You don’t need specific information about who gives them how much money. You want to see if they have a large and diverse funding base so that if one source dries up, they have others to rely on.

zenvelo's avatar

Look on their website, check the state where you are to see how they are funded and how they use their funding.

My girlfriend was Executive Director of a non-profit in Colorado, and now works for a non-profit in San Francisco. When she was interviewing for the job she has now, she did some research on line and with the funders. “Good” non-profits are open and transparent about their programs and about their funding, and have nothing to hide.

jaytkay's avatar

Charity Navigator

“We rate charities by evaluating two broad areas of performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to being accountable and transparent.”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The tax returns for non-profits are public information. Anyone can look up how they raise and spend money. I like to review the expenditures. They are broken down into Management and Administration, Fundraising, and Charitable Purposes. I look at the perecentages and where the money goes to get a feel for the culture of the organization. if the charitalble line looks out of wack, extremely low I look to the managemet page to see who’s running the group. You’d be amazed at some of the abusive practices that go on. Stay away from those places.

marinelife's avatar

I too was going to suggest Charity Navigator. Even if a charity is not rated (too small to meet their criteria, etc.) they provide a lot of information on it including publicly available tax forms, etc.

As to how to evaluate for a job opportunity, check to see if you are compatible with the culture of the organization. Make sure that the bulk of the money they raise goes toward their constituency and not on admin and salaries.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

You can go to and view the Form 990s of any exempt organization that’s required to file.

“Exempt organization” isn’t a synonym for “charity.” Not all EOs are charitable; they might be trade associations, business and professional leagues, labor organizations, civic and social welfare leagues, social clubs, retirement plan qualified trusts, political organizations, and a long list of more obscure institutions.

I’ve been an employee of several EOs. I also worked for CPA firms for many years and dealt with hundreds of EO clients.

Pros: In general, the jobs aren’t demanding, compensation’s good, the hours are reasonable, there’s decent holiday and leave time, and the employee benefits are ok.

Cons: The workplaces are often toxic. An EO is likely run by people who are related to the organization’s mission, not people with business and managerial experience. If the folks at the top are incompetent, an ugly office culture and chaos among employees are usually inevitable.

Cupcake's avatar

- I would look up their 990 form (thank you @Love_my_doggie). I would specifically look at the money raised in the last few years (was it consistent?) and their top 5 salaries.
– I would google them for a general consensus on their reputation.
– I would ask everyone I interviewed with what their mission statement was.
– If possible, I would meet with the chairperson or a general member of the board of directors.
– Find out if the administration/board have different ideas of the direction of the company.
– Understand their financial state and potential financial concerns (upcoming legislation, funding changes, social perceptions, whatever).
– I would look up the last person who held the position I was interested in (on LinkedIn?). How long were they there? When did they leave? Where did they go?
– How many employees?
– I’d be interested in the “atmosphere” and sociability of the staff. Small companies can be great or horrible (not that the non-profit is necessarily small).

Love_my_doggie's avatar

— Form 990 reports total funding, but the funding sources aren’t publicly disclosed. In other words, you can see that an EO received $500K of contributions, but you can’t see who made the contributions. The organization could be supported by good guys, or it might be funded by corporate interests that violate your own ethics.

— Form 990 isn’t a tax return; it’s impossible to assess or pay any sort of tax with the form. Form 990 reports revenue and expense numbers, but it’s also a subjective narration about an organization’s activities and achievements. Form 990 will always paint a very rosy picture of the filing entity.

— GlassDoor, Yelp!, and other review websites give more accurate insights into an organization’s work culture and treatment of staff. Reviews are usually posted by former employees, who let loose about the realities. If you temper a very harsh review for the writer’s anger and bitterness, you can get a reasonable idea of what goes within a place. You’ll also want to take glowing, all-positive comments with a grain of salt, because they’re likely to be astroturfing – posted by the bosses, or by employees forced by the bosses, to make the office seem terrific.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@tedibear You should also take a long hard look at your immediate supervisor. They’re the ones that can make or break the experience for you. i’ve had great bosses and I have bosses from the slime pit of hell. That was not fun at all.

msh's avatar

Do some research into state politics, how closely your group is effected by it’s political parties flotsam-jetsam, and what ends up floating in their wake, or sinking.
@Adirondackwannabe‘s post just above this one ^ is dead on.
Be nice to volunteers- they are good allies who have connections. Useful connections…
Good luck !

tedibear's avatar

Thank you all for the helpful, intelligent answers.

I did some more research and I don’t think that I would be a fit with the culture. As an organization it seems they are great, I just don’t think I am who they need.

Thank you again!

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