Earning a Living at Nonprofits

Can I actually make a living working in nonprofits?

Yes! It’s a common misconception that individuals working in the nonprofit sector earn far less than their peers in the for-profit and government sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings between sectors are comparable. In fact, in some sectors such as education, health care and social services, and cultural institutions, median annual wages in the nonprofit sphere slightly surpass those in the for-profit sphere. 

Granted, entry level nonprofit positions are never going to offer comparable compensation packages than those in the financial or tech industries. However, when considering a career in nonprofits, it is important to consider more than salary alone. Recognizing that their salaries tend to be a bit lower, many nonprofits actively promote policies that provide their employees with a good work/life balance. This may come in the form of generous time off, flexible work hours, reimbursement for transportation or commute, or a robust health insurance package. It can often also mean more opportunities for professional development and growth and promotion within the organization.

To put this into perspective, here are a few illustrative statistics for Massachusetts nonprofits in 2017:

  • The average base salary for an entry-level position was $28,700
  • The average base salary for a manager-level position was $58,600
  • The average base salary for a director-level position was $80,900
  • The average base salary for an executive-level position was $127,100

Additionally, according to the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, the nonprofit sector is especially strong in the Massachusetts, with over 529,000 nonprofit jobs (making up 17% of the workforce) at the end of 2015. Of particular interest, the nonprofit sector in Massachusetts extends beyond the typical education, healthcare, social services, and arts spaces, encompassing industries not typically associated with nonprofits including professional and technical services, life sciences, management, finance, and information. In other words, no matter your academic background and professional interests, there are spaces for you in the nonprofit sector.

Read more about how real people made their entry level and corps position stipends work:

By Sheryl Rosenberg
Sheryl Rosenberg Assistant Director Sheryl Rosenberg