Honesty about Being a Nonprofiteer

After 3+ decades as a nonprofit fundraiser, I think I can look back and share my experience – my honest experience. This one is about nonprofit salaries.

I have said for many years – I am a really bad liar – I can’t raise money for an organization in whose mission I don’t believe. So in my 30 years, I have not chased money or title, but looked for challenging work at amazing organizations. And that goes for my work on staff or as a consultant. Let’s face it – for most nonprofits – budgets are limited (perhaps tilted in the wrong direction) but limited all the same.

I get calls from for-profit people who want to enter the nonprofit sector and have no idea of the pay cut they will have to take. A quick look at a nonprofit’s 990 tells you all you need to know. Chasing money as opposed to good work and mission is one of the reasons we have high turn over in the nonprofit sector. Absolutely we should all look for advancement – in and out of our organizations. But with 2-3% annual merit increases (if that) and few effective incentive plans – our work has to be about more than money. I know mine has been.

A nonprofit job can’t help you relieve debt – personal or from college. I don’t know your savings account will grow exponentially – depends on how you live or the standard of living you want/need to have.

All that being said – I enjoy my work. I am proud of the organizations, nonprofit professionals and volunteers with whom I have worked. That to me is worth more than a paycheck.

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