October 15, 2018

7 things my friends say about my nonprofit life

Moving from the corporate to the nonprofit sector is never easy. Add to that the unending questions that your friends ask you. Here are some snarky answers to help you respond.

3 min read

It could be said that gone are the days when social workers could be stereotyped as people commuting in local buses, wearing khadi kurtas, a jhola hanging from their shoulder, dirty chappals on their feet, and obligatory anger in their voice.

The sector in India is changing, especially now with an influx of people transferring in from the corporate sector. While these newly transitioned people might find the shift rewarding, their friends often find it a little hard to catch up. Here are some things my friends used to say to me when I was in the corporate sector, and what they say now:


Before: We are all useless, stuck in this rat race.
After: At least you are doing good work!

Ah yes, my excel work is holier than yours.
No one told me earlier that maintaining excel sheets, saving files on google drive, attending workshops, and scheduling meetings qualified as ‘good work’. I’m essentially doing what I did earlier, except now, the vision and mission of my organisation makes sense to me.


Before: When are you applying for a US Visa?
After: Is it safe to go to these villages?

No. Never go.
The irony is that this question pops up in Delhi. “How do you take care of the security?”, they ask. “I don’t have to”, I say, a bit more aggressively than last time.


Before: How was your appraisal this year? Got promoted?
After: What are the salaries like? (Um…if you get paid at all)

Awful. Really awful. You should pay for my drinks tonight (and every other time you ask me this question).

Related article: 10 tips for surviving your move to the development sector
The salaries, for me at least, have been fair until now. In most cases, especially for people who have worked for a higher pay-check earlier, the job satisfaction and hence, the self-worth derived, can compensate.


Before: I’ve heard the work culture and perks are amazing at your company.
After: What exactly do you guys do?

Collaborate with partners, leverage the tools we have, and work to move the needle on social issues (okay, so maybe this one isn’t their fault really).
We do a whole lot of things, just like people in other sectors. There’s accounts, HR, marketing, operations, administration. There’s field work and back office. There’s data entry, board meetings, brainstorming, research, field visits, training, strategy planning, and budgeting as well.

nonprofit humor


Before: What are your weekend plans?
After: Oh! You still party and watch movies?

Not with you, apparently.
But yes. I still need to have my share of fun, take a break, and pursue my interests and hobbies.


Before: How much are you able to save and invest?
After: Must be fun to spend charity money, no?

Indeed. When people donate money, we use it to pay for luxuries like rent and office supplies.
It’s the organisation’s money and it is spent as per a proposal and a plan. There are rules, guidelines, and a monitoring process in place.

Related article: This nonprofit life Ep 4 | “Mr Shah was planning on funding you…”


Before: Please forward my CV to your HR department
After: My friend is in between jobs. Please suggest a nonprofit they can volunteer with, they’re bored!

I could recommend a suitable organisation, and for that, you will have to tell me about their skills, expertise, expectations, and level of commitment. In fact, it would be better if I could ask all this directly from them. What?! You aren’t sure if they’re interested at all?

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Swati Saxena profile
Swati Saxena

Swati Saxena works with India Fellow, a 13-month social leadership program that enables young Indians to become socially conscious leaders. As a fellow, which was her introduction to the sector, she worked on gender equity in Madhya Pradesh. Before making a switch from the corporate sector, she worked with Deloitte for five years.