Written by: Kim Schmahl
Before this summer, I had two other internships. During my sophomore year, I worked at the Ohio Community Service Council, a government agency, with the Make A Difference Day Ohio program. Then, last summer, I interned at Time Warner Cable in the Customer Service department. Needless to say, I have had three very different experiences!
While working at the ALS Association for the summer, I’ve noticed some differences between working at a non-profit and at a for-profit. Some differences were expected and others weren’t. I’ve also surprisingly learned how similar the different sectors can be. I thought I’d compare my experiences at Time Warner Cable as a large company and the ALS Association as a small non-profit by breaking it down into the the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.
WHO: The “who” is one of the biggest differences I’ve noticed so far, in two ways. The first is how many hats employees at a small non-profit wear. For example, at the ALS Association, the marketing coordinator also acts as the unofficial IT person who everyone goes to with computer issues. On the flip side, at a large company like Time Warner, there’s a whole marketing department that does nothing but marketing! The other big “who” difference is the importance of volunteers at a non-profit. At the ALS Association, there are several volunteers who come in every week and there is never a shortage of things for them to help out with!
WHAT: This is where there are a lot of similarities between non-profit and for-profits. In my experience, the actual functions of non-profits and for-profits can be quite similar. For example, both Time Warner and the ALS Association provide a service: Time Warner provides cable, internet and phone to both people and businesses, while the ALS Association provides support for people living with ALS. The big difference is how they are funded–at Time Warner, customers pay for the services, but at the ALS Association, all services are free and paid for through donations and funds raised through the development and events department.
WHEN: This is the only W that I cannot think of anything for…
WHERE: See the pictures below and the difference is pretty obvious:
The ALS Association’s office is in a modest suite in the building in the left photo. At Time Warner, I worked in the building on the right, a huge modern office building built only a few years ago.
WHY: In my experience, the “why” is the biggest difference between non-profit’s and for-profits. At Time Warner, I met employees with all sorts of reasons for enjoying working there. Some were there because they are interested in the technology and communications industry, others because they enjoy their job function, while others told me they were there because of the culture of the company and the people they work with. At the ALS Association, while everyone may have different things they like about their jobs, they are all there for ultimately the same reason: because they are passionate about the cause and most have a personal connection to the disease.
And that wraps up the 5 W’s. A lot of these things obviously don’t apply to all non-profits or all companies–they are just from my own experiences at two of my internships. After these two summers, I can’t say one sector is better than the other, as I’ve had two very different but positive experiences in both.