The Nonprofit Jobs Boom

Posted on 26 March 2012

For those of us in the nonprofit world, a few bits of recent news not only offer up a healthy dose of optimism, but also bring up questions regarding the future of the industry and its role in society.

According to a recent survey by Nonprofit HR Solutions, more than 40% of nonprofits expect to hire additional staff this year. In contrast to the news about job growth in other industries, the nonprofit sector continues to expand and draw employees from other fields. Based on recent hires I’ve seen at numerous nonprofits, especially in development positions, many corporate veterans who are out of work, or disenfranchised by the business world, have looked to the booming nonprofit sector for career opportunities.

But nonprofits are not just offering jobs, they are offering lucrative ones as well. Recent news that the head of development at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center draws a salary of $1.4 million, helps counter a widely-held misconception that nonprofits are unable to provide competitive salaries for top talent. Nonprofits may not be able to compete with the compensation offered by the top financial firms, or promise the salary ceiling of other for-profit industries, but depending on one’s skills and interests, nonprofits can still provide a career option that includes a lucrative salary.

The nonprofit world is also benefitting from new academic programs designed for the industry, with colleges and universities launching graduate programs related to philanthropy, and other educational opportunities for the field.

The result of all of this activity is that the nonprofit world is experiences an influx of educated graduates and experienced corporate workers. Many of these new nonprofit professionals are being drawn to the field not necessarily by the desire to “do good,” but rather by the lure of a lucrative salary and benefits that tend to be superior to those in the for-profit world.

The question remains: how will this affect nonprofits in the future? Organizations are already finding themselves competing for top talent, and seeing their own staff leave for higher-paying positions. What becomes of a nonprofit mission when more of its assets need to be committed to salary? And what happens to the industry at large when leadership positions are increasingly filled by financially ambitious professionals, rather than those committed to concepts in philanthropy?

Only time will tell, but I view the changing nature of the industry optimistically. It seems as if students and other professionals are catching up to the reality of nonprofit work as a rewarding career, both emotionally and financially. The more talent that is drawn to the industry, the better we’ll all be.

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