Everybody from your favorite business professor to your Great Aunt Lucy has probably told you that working for a nonprofit is a fine idea — perhaps for a couple of years in your 20s. But, they’ll continue, if you want to build a decent financial future, you’re going to eventually need to work in the for-profit sector.
You (and Aunt Lucy) might be surprised to learn that several nonprofit occupations not only pay a decent wage — they also pay quite well. To be sure, depending on what you end up doing, the salary might be considerably lower than you’d make at a for-profit enterprise. After all, the average compensation for a nonprofit CEO in the U.S. was $115,000 in 2013, according to the Nonprofit Times 2014 Salary Survey. That’s certainly not poverty, but it’s a fraction of what CEOs earn at even some small enterprises.
So if you want to combine a nonprofit career with the trappings of a decent lifestyle, consider some of the positions listed below. Note that we have omitted jobs with rigorous educational requirements and skills, such as physicians and attorneys. The other jobs in this group are all occupations that someone with a liberal arts or business degree — particularly a graduate degree in business — might aspire to. The one exception is the chief scientific officer, whose average pay, incidentally, well exceeds that of a CEO.
Additionally, people in these jobs typically manage a department and have staff reporting to them. Salaries in those jobs are solidly within the middle-income range, according to the Nonprofit Times.
Chief scientific officer, $199,484
Organizations with a scientific mission employ a chief scientific officer to oversee all of their science-related activities. Key jobs include basic and applied research and the development of new technologies and processes. A chief scientific officer also makes recommendations for future products, recruits qualified scientists to work for the organization and manages the research staff. The job usually requires a master’s- or doctoral-level scientific degree and extensive industry experience.
Chief advocacy officer, $142,830
Typically found in larger organizations, chief advocacy officers focus heavily on governmental affairs and their impact on what the organization does, such as funding for healthcare initiatives. Advocacy officers also spend significant amounts of time engaging with the organization’s volunteers and collaborating on its communications strategy.
Chief information officer, $133,147
A nonprofit CIO does pretty much the same work as a CIO in for-profit enterprise: developing, building and managing an information-technology infrastructure to serve the organization’s needs and growth. CIOs are often challenged to maintain high standards while keeping costs low. The CIO also manages the organization’s information-technology staff, ensuring that the organization has sufficient talent to manage the IT infrastructure and to build for the future.
Chief marketing officer, $110,033
The chief marketing officer is in charge of growth, sales and marketing strategy. The word “marketing” is often associated with an organization’s creative activities, but when done right it will encompass much more than that. The marketing chief makes the organization’s mission happen through endeavors such as advertising, publishing, managing the organization’s website and developing the group’s overall branding and public image. Ultimately, the right marketing will drive an organization’s strategy — and engage people outside the organization in helping achieve the group’s overarching mission.
Chief development officer, $108,793
A chief development officer is responsible for all fundraising and development. This individual also establishes new relationships to help build the organization’s financial resources, visibility and impact. Another key duty is to create a strategic development plan, which identifies external alliances to pursue to cultivate future donations and philanthropic support. The job typically requires excellent communication skills and the ability to write proposals.
Chief financial officer, $108,401
The CFO’s job will vary greatly depending on the size of the organization and its budget. In smaller organizations, the CFO often takes on roles such as payroll and human resources in addition to monthly, quarterly and annual financial reporting. In a larger organization, the CFO often will have a dedicated staff and will perform more financial analysis to help determine the impact of various financial decisions on the organization. Organizations usually prefer their CFOs to have a master’s degree.
Chief of staff, $108,705
The chief of staff in a large organization helps the CEO get things done. The role typically oversees the organization’s compliance with regulations, executive staff relations and policy development. Of note, a chief of staff often leads initiatives begun by the CEO. Many chiefs of staff are also charged with overall organizational project management, meeting with the project managers and their staffs regularly to assess progress.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Alison Green, "Thinking About a Nonprofit Job? Here’s What You Should Know," U.S. News & World Report
- "2014 Nonprofit Organizations Salary and Benefits Report – Executive Summary," The Nonprofit Times with Bluewater Financial Solutions
- "Nonprofit Job Description Toolkit," The Bridgewater Group
- "Browse Average Salary Ranges for High Income Level Non Profit and Social Services Jobs," Salary.com