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The Not for Profit Sector Doesn't Give You Purpose

25 June 2014 at 3:48 pm
Staff Reporter
The Not for Profit sector does not have a monopoly on finding purpose or meaning in a person’s work life, writes Michael Garnett from by Inspire Foundation.

Staff Reporter | 25 June 2014 at 3:48 pm


The Not for Profit Sector Doesn't Give You Purpose
25 June 2014 at 3:48 pm


Mick GarnettThe Not for Profit sector does not have a monopoly on finding purpose or meaning in a person’s work life, writes Michael Garnett from by Inspire Foundation.

One of the most common statements I've heard since leaving the large corporate environment to ply my marketing trade in the Not for Profit sector is: "I'd like to do that too, I've always wanted to find more purpose in what I do and give back".

My realisation has been that working in the Not for Profit sector doesn't give you purpose. Rather, you give purpose to what you do, whatever sector you work in.

This is not to say that my experience working in this sector has been disappointing, it hasn't. I can see how my current role with online youth mental health service can help millions of young Australians know that help exists during tough times. I recognise that my colleagues in the sector can derive great satisfaction from the contribution they make to good social outcomes.

However, my message is for those people who work in other sectors who perceive life being more purposeful for those in the Not for Profit environment. I've been contacted many times by people who lament their 'lost years' in large corporations and who have distant plans to 'do something worthwhile' down the track. I empathise with that idea, given it was part of the reason I wanted to make the transition into the Not for Profit sector in pursuit of a higher purpose to my work.

If your end goal is to create social change and improve the lives of others, you're going to need a number of things including ideas, cash, people and time. None of these resources are demonstrably more plentiful in the Not for Profit sector, in fact as a generalisation, the reverse is true. In addition to the foreseeable scarcity of money in relation to the size of many of our social challenges, there’s an additional challenge on available time when compared with more commercially pragmatic environments.

So, if you want to find more purpose in your work and give back, should you stop what you're doing and find a job in the Not for Profit sector?


Or if you currently work in another environment with superior resources, can you infuse what you do with your desire to create better social outcomes and, if necessary, help orientate your organisation's mission toward a higher purpose? If you can’t influence your organisation’s mission as might be the case in a large corporate environment, can you influence your department or team to find complementary social outcomes for the products and services you produce?

My point is, the Not for Profit sector does not have a monopoly on finding purpose or meaning in your work life. Like all other sectors, there are inspiring and uninspiring people, good and bad processes, highs and lows, rewards and challenges. My lesson hasn’t been about the virtue of one sector over another, rather a reminder of ultimately where purpose comes from.

I've learnt that if you want more purpose in what you do for work, then it comes from within.

You give purpose to what you do, not the other way around. And you can start today.

About the Author: Mick Garnett is the Director of Marketing and Communications for by Inspire Foundation, one of Australia’s leading online youth mental health service. Mick is also the Founder of a brand consultancy called Authentic Marketing, and his professional background includes marketing roles with The Coca-Cola Company, Sara Lee and Canon. Mick is part of the TEDxSydney organisaing team and the Skipper of the Old Boys' Rugby Choir, a singing group for whom enthusiasm trumps talent.

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