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Can I make a decent living working in a non-profit capacity?

I really enjoy helping others and want to help people who are trying to improve their lives. I've been told, however, that non-profit work, although satisfying, doesn't pay well. Can I make enough money to live an average or above average lifestyle?
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Rachel Peridot’s Answer

It depends a lot on where you live! If you're willing to live in a more affordable town, you can make a decent living. If your dream is to live in SF or New York, for example, it will be much harder as your rent will be very expensive. In general, in your younger years, if you are willing to make some sacrifices and save money you will ultimately be happier in the long run! It can be tough to see your peers in banking / sales / tech making more in the short term, but in the long term having expertise in specific issue areas will pay off. I know plenty of people who work in the nonprofit sector that make a decent living, it just takes more time to get there.

Rachel Peridot recommends the following next steps:

Research nonprofits that work on issues you're passionate about in lower-costs cities
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Look at the jobs available on their websites
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Check out salary ranges on Glassdoor for the job titles that seem interesting to you
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Veena’s Answer

Having worked in the nonprofit space in my career, I agree with the points mentioned above.

I would also think about volunteering with nonprofits in conjunction with a for-profit company you might work with. Companies increasingly have formal programs that support employee volunteerism in the community. You can also incorporate volunteerism in your time outside of work to support the issues areas that matter most to you.

Whether or not you choose to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, there are ways to support nonprofits' efforts to make a positive impact in your community.


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Eileen’s Answer

In addition to geographic differences in pay, salaries at nonprofits can vary significantly depending on the industry and the market for the skills. I have also seen roles in for-profit companies that benefit the community that are similar to the work of nonprofits. Roles with titles like Community Relations, Community Development and Community Outreach can be found in corporations, governments, utility companies, hospitals, etc. These can have a higher pay. Check salary.com or other similar website to see what the going rate for jobs with these titles pay in your area and check the descriptions of the jobs. Best wishes.

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Alexis’s Answer

Hi LaRon,


What a great question. I think Rachel gave you a great answer.


However, I would add that in addition to the cost of living in the city you're in, it also depends on the size of the organization you're working with.


Grassroots nonprofits who have a staff of 1-10 normally pay much lower than your national or global nonprofits who have a staff of 30-1,000+. Nonprofits are also like any organization and the more you move up the ladder, the more you make.


Hope this helps!

Alexis recommends the following next steps:

Research what area of nonprofit interests you (Executive Director, Development/Fundraising, Volunteer Management, Program Coordinator, etc.)
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Research what cities you'd like to end up in and what the cost of living is there.
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After you choose some cities you'd like to live in, research what nonprofit organizations are in that city.
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Start making connections. a) Reach out to employees at the nonprofits you're interested in and ask if you can meet to talk about what their job is like. b) Volunteer at that nonprofit and make a good impression. c) Browse their website and learn all about that nonprofit so you can WOW them.
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