Globally, the development sector has grown to become a valid third sector along with agriculture and industry.
In fact, the most trusted brands now are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially those driven by a genuine need to address and solve issues that affect humanity and are not aligned to any political party, community or religion. NGOs now play a key role because of two reasons: non-delivery by government and the rapid disintegration of social support structures. Since the scope of this role is constantly broadening, there is an increase in the number of organisations and the demand for professionals.
An NGO works in a complex, highly diverse and sometimes turbulent environment. And therefore, many NGOs are run with as much professionalism as a corporate house. The development sector is broadly divided into funding NGOs — foreign or Local — and grassroots or implementing NGOs that are usually local. Some NGOs perform both functions.
Larger NGOs have different divisions handling multiple functions. These include resource generation, development support, strategic planning, human resource development, communications, finance, information and technology and so on. Hence, there is a need for people with diverse qualifications and expertise.
Since the focus of an NGO is development work, there is a requirement for people with qualifications and experience in social sciences — political science, history, anthropology, sociology, social work, and so on. There is also a demand for technical qualifications in environment, medicine and other areas depending on the objective of the NGO. With NGOs moving towards a more professional approach, there is also a need for professionals from the field of marketing, communications, finance, to name a few. In these areas, people from the corporate sector are also welcome.
Since the development sector is multifaceted and is moving towards a more professional approach, the growth opportunities are immense. Identifying the right kind of organization and issues that you feel strongly about is the critical first step in determining what kind of path your career will take.
Like any other sector, development work, too, involves qualities that help people move ahead, including the drive to excel. The only difference is that in this sector your goal to excel impacts a much larger audience and is more meaningful, for example, removing poverty and injustice.
Earlier, the NGO sector worker was seen as a ‘social worker’ — one with a self-sacrificing outlook to social change. Today, it is no longer necessary to sacrifice legitimate personal desires in order to make a difference. Most NGOs realize that if they are serious about doing something constructive, they need to have people with a serious, professional approach towards their work. Hence, the requisite compensation is necessary to ensure quality work.
However, the salaries are lower than those in the corporate sector, though the difference has reduced in recent years with the development sector becoming a viable career option. The sector is also less volatile than the corporate sector, and market vagaries affect remuneration to a much lesser degree. In the long run, however, as in any field, a professionally rewarding career is not only about the money. It is about the satisfaction of having spent one’s time well and feeling it’s been well worth the effort.
If you are disturbed by the inequities in society, and would like to be part of an organization that looks to change this, then this is the sector for you. For those who want to be social entrepreneurs, the area of work should be defined precisely and while the motive will come from the heart, the implementation should come from the head.
A strategic plan should be worked out for fund generation and its utilization for at least three years. Care should be taken to ensure that all statutory requirements for a non-profit are complied with. This is especially important if funds are generated, as you will be accountable to the donors.
What is vital is conviction in the cause that you want to work for, and a determination to change the situation permanently, no matter what the hurdles are. Don’t wait till you retire to do something. Grab the chance to make a difference, now.
— As told to Sakshi Khattar