Hong Kong's finance industry is never short of talent. A huge number of graduates each year try to land jobs in banks, financial institutions and accounting firms. But they seem unaware of meaningful opportunities in non-profit groups, such as NGOs and charities.
"Most finance and accounting graduates have investment banks on their mind when they graduate. They are not aware of the growing demand for talent in non-profit organisations," says Dr Chan Yu, lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.
Seeing the need for people who are able to manage funds in non-profit organisations, the faculty started a Master of Social Sciences in Non-profit Management programme. Chan explained that although these groups do not make profits, they still need people with legal, financial and accounting knowledge to help handle fundraising and grants. These are two major financial components of non-profit organisations that allow them to make a difference in people's lives.
"There are many generous people who want to donate money to charity," she says, "and [the groups] need finance professionals to monitor how the money is spent, and how to spend it wisely.
Chan also says the rise of non-profit organisations shows that society is moving forward. "It has become the third pillar, after government and commercial sector, that drives the development of society," she says.
The non-profit sector acts as a bridge between the private sector and the government in solving social problems. And Chan urges young professionals to consider joining the sector for a fulfilling career that also gives back to society, particularly because it is a workspace that allows for, and encourages, imagination.
"A career in non-profit organisations is at the forefront of tackling social issues. There will be many chances for employees to get creative," she says. "Sometimes policies may not address all social issues, and staff in the non-profit sector are frontline fighters against social problems. They are highly encouraged to improve and develop solutions and share their ideas with the private sector and the government. It is a great fit for those with creative minds."
A common misconception is that non-profit organisations don't pay as well as jobs in the private sector or the government. But Chan said this is not true. "The non-profit sector offers a pay scale that is comparable to that of the private sector," she says. "The non-profit sector also employs medical professionals, and they are paid no less than their counterparts in the private sector and the government."
In fact, those working for non-profit groups are paid twice over: in the money they earn, and in knowing they're making a difference.