The nonprofit pay dilemma.

Posted March 8, 2010 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Why is it, I must ask, are those who do the most service-oriented work, those who are paid the least? Teachers, social workers, lowly nonprofit workers, etc. So much so that those of us who care about nonprofits and wish we could stay in the nonprofit sector begin to turn our eyes to the for-profit world just to be on-par with our peers who make sometimes two and three times as much as we do for similar work.

As the Y generation becomes more prevalent in business, nonprofits may find themselves lacking for the right people. The Y generation is a generation that strives constantly to move up and gain more responsibility, more satisfaction in our work, and going hand in hand with those things, a higher salary. Which begs the question: how long do we stay? (in the nonprofit sector, that is) Can we find our fulfillment through volunteerism or elsewhere and not in our full-time work. The answer for me, right now, is still up in the air. But who knows what the future holds.

Eventually, many of us in the nonprofit sector will look at our expensive degrees, our climbing bills and say to ourselves, “Maybe the costs outweigh the benefits here.” And then, what will the nonprofit sector do? Can the nonprofit sector rest on its laurels hoping there are enough of us willing to accept the pay in order to do good in the world for a little longer?

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."


    Katsui Jewelry

    I was in school for most of my life (while working non-profit, teaching and service-oriented work) and asked myself those questions. What generation does that put me in? And, yes, the woman part is still an issue, I think. Does anything ever change, except for higher hopes?


    Marcy, I concur… it's a sad state of the world right now.

    I think that part of the answer is that our generation (not sure if I am Y or what) is not as aware of how to use it's power to impact policy. We may just have taken a look at the current state of our political system and come to believe that we have no power. If we believe this, then we have given up our power.

    It sometimes seems easier just to go the route of switching our jobs to ones that make more money, but where does that leave us in the future. Those individuals with opportunity, education, and skills (like yourself) may leave the floundering non-profit sector behind while it takes it's last gulping breaths.

    I think before too long, our nation will see the effects of assuming that we can withdraw support from non-profits, jobs in education, and social service programs. Things may look okay now, but is it looking okay simply because these supportive structures have been in place?

    Katsui Jewelry

    I cannot imagine a job without some kind of meaning.

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