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Home  > Article

Perspective: the Good Samaritan Gets Paid

By Cathy Miner

You want to change the world, but you've heard that the going rate is less than your senior year's tuition. Good news- you don't have to take a vow of lifelong poverty to build a career around a worthy cause.

The money enables you to do the work you want to, but the real bottom line should always be your mission. -Kate Schrauth

In many ways, the opportunities to be a Good Samaritan-and get paid well-have never been better. Not only are many non-profit organizations shelling out more competitive salaries and benefits to lure talented professionals, but a growing number of for-profit corporations are creating positions that focus on philanthropy. Meanwhile, a new breed of social entrepreneurs are blazing new career paths that use free enterprise to fuel their non-profit missions.

What's that? Your conscience is saying, "If you work for a good cause, you shouldn't want to make money." Well, if your calling is to become a monk, then by all means, heed it. Otherwise, listen to Kate Schrauth, a social entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in educational missions. "Who can afford to have children and live off $30,000 a year?" asks Schrauth. She doesn't buy the guilt trip that wanting a higher salary means that you are less committed to your cause. And neither should you. There are career paths that allow benevolent souls to work for social change without sacrificing financial security.

Talent is an asset
With recent federal funding cuts creating fierce competition for charitable dollars, non-profit organizations will depend increasingly on talented staff to ensure that they survive-and thrive-in the next millennium. In short, they need "new blood," and this makes smart, young employees a hot commodity. To get the best and the brightest, some organizations are upping salaries, while others are offering unique opportunities for accelerated professional growth.

Lisa Orr took a 40 percent pay cut when she left Origins Inc., a cosmetics company owned by Estee Lauder, to work for the American Red Cross in San Francisco. But she didn't stay on the bottom rung for long. The Red Cross promoted her from Administrative Assistant to Manager of Volunteers after just nine months. Two years later, her title is Corporate Relations Associate, and she makes $39,000. She describes her benefits-including full health, free dental, partner benefits, three weeks of vacation, and a pension plan-as "amazing."

Orr, 26, believes that the non-profit sector affords young people an exceptional degree of responsibility and a diverse range of experiences. In addition to raising over $300,000 a year in unrestricted operating revenue from corporations and civic organizations, she manages a $1 million grant, trains volunteers, and goes on-site for disaster relief.

Due to cuts in federal funding for non-profits, employees with development skills are a hot commodity. According to Orr, development professionals at small- to medium-sized organizations in the Bay Area can expect to make $40,000 to $60,000 after five or more years and $60,000 to $100,000 after 10 years and beyond. "Once you've worked for three or four organizations, you can expect significant salary increases," says Orr, "and you can't really max out."

"Hot Cause" organizations
City Year, a national youth service organization, is an example of a "hot cause" organization. Fueled by the President's Summit for America's Future and funded by the federal AmeriCorps National Service Network, City Year is well publicized and expanding. The organization reports a national budget of $23 million for 1999 and plans to expand from 10 to 25 sites over the next decade. This healthy growth spurt translates into tremendous potential for individual employees.

Growth potential is what drew Candace Coakley to City Year. As the Director of External Affairs at City Year in Boston, she manages the marketing and communications department and assists with planning events. She also acts as a mentor to the organization's "corps members"-17- to 24-year-olds who volunteer full-time for one year to work on community-based projects across the country.

Coakley left her job in public relations after two years of "promoting mattress companies and a lot of other clients I didn't care much about." She wanted to do something that mattered. "Coming to a young organization has allowed me to be a mentor to young people and do great things in the communications field," she says. "I've been able to shape the marketing department and set policy. It's very exciting to have an impact on [young people's] lives. Sometimes I get pulled away from my desk to volunteer for the day at a Boys or Girls Club in the city. That's what I'm doing this job for."

At City Year, it's possible for a dedicated newcomer to get in the door as a Project Leader (with a salary in the low $20,000s) and shoot up to an Executive Director position in as little as six years (with a salary range of $65,000 to $80,000). "There are more and more positions on every level, and the paths for moving up are many and varied," says Coakley. Her salary range is $40,000 to $60,000, and the benefits package includes a health plan, a 403(b) plan (the 401(k) of the non-profit world), flextime, and generous vacation time. "There's a lot of recognition of how hard we work. It's not uncommon to have extra vacation days thrown in," she says. Coakley is not surprised that non-profit organizations are starting to offer career development benefits-like tuition reimbursement and regular performance and salary reviews-because she feels that "company concern for an individual's needs" is a big part of the non-profit culture.

Pays great, just as fulfilling
What if you're not sure that the non-profit sector is right for you? Maybe you thrive on the challenges of working for a big corporation or find the siren call of stock options and expense accounts impossible to ignore. Don't have an existential crisis just yet. Many Good Samaritans find that working in the for-profit sector doesn't mean giving up their social missions. While purists may argue that working at a for-profit company is somehow less noble than sticking with a non-profit, keep in mind that the resources of a profitable company may allow you to champion your cause more effectively. And the potential for higher compensation may keep you from burning out.

Chris Singleton doesn't work on the front lines of disaster areas or mentor high school kids, but his job as Director of the Merrill Lynch Non-profit Financial Services division lets him be a do-gooder. The group creates financial products and services that help non-profit organizations increase their available budgets through investing and planned giving strategies. Last year the division facilitated the transfer of $835 million to charitable organizations. A former fund-raiser, Singleton describes his work as a unique blend of finance and development.

Another Merrill Lynch do-gooder, Chris Kelly, manages the company's Community Foundation Alliance. He was accused of "selling out" when he turned down a singing position at the Metropolitan Opera for his current job. Kelly says that people who think working in for-profit is selling out don't understand the significant role that for-profit companies play in philanthropic missions. As Vice President and Manager of the Alliance, Kelly uses his creativity to crunch numbers for community foundations and service organizations nationwide. "We are accomplishing something that helps not only an individual client, but various charitable organizations as well. I get every bit as much satisfaction out of that as I did [from] any of the opera concerts I was involved in."

According to Singleton, lawyers, accountants, mission developers, and management consultants are in demand in the non-profit sector. If you don't yet have specialized experience, a corporate giving department is a traditional place to begin your Good Samaritan for-profit career. According to "Giving USA 1998," a survey published by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, corporate giving totaled $8.2 billion in the United States in 1997-up 7.5 percent from 1996. As more and more non-profits form alliances with private businesses, corporations will be beefing up their corporate giving and community relations staff to allocate donations, work with community organizers, negotiate sponsorships, and plan events.

Being green
Getting on board a socially responsible business is another way to effect social change from the for-profit side. Socially responsible businesses strive to incorporate policies of social change into their day-to-day business practices, from using environment-friendly products and hiring diverse staff to paying employees for community volunteer work. Of the Fortune 500 companies, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Time Warner are among those working to adopt socially responsible business practices. Smaller companies such as Patagonia, Ben and Jerry's, Bright Horizons (a child care company), Tom's of Maine (maker of natural toothpaste), and Stonyfield Farm Yogurt have also won recognition for their strong initiatives.

At the outdoor clothing and equipment company Patagonia, employee involvement in environmental activism goes beyond recycling office paper. The company factors environmental research into the cost of producing its goods, gives away 10 percent of its annual profits to grassroots environmental organizations, and recently became the first business in California to commit to using 100 percent wind-generated energy. In monthly meetings, passionate discussions about environmental issues are common, and employees speak up about new ways in which Patagonia can advance its mission-using business to generate solutions to what the company sees as an environmental crisis.

"Everyone has a sense of being part of our environmental mission," says Hal Thompson, Patagonia's 32-year-old Product Press Coordinator, resident surfer, and office flip-flop wearer. Part of Thompson's job is explaining why it's good business to be socially responsible. As a result, his product pitches about fleece garments and climbing gear often turn into environmental evangelism. "It's a very difficult thing to walk the line we do," he concedes. "In many ways we are the first company to ever try to do what we do with materials. But it's incredibly worthwhile. If you are successful at generating profit, you can build your mission into it."

Be a social entrepreneur
Social entrepreneurs are the movers and shakers of the nonprofit world, combining their passion for social change with their entrepreneurial instincts. For the Good Samaritan who's a free agent at heart, becoming a social entrepreneur creates the freedom to be your own boss, set organizational standards and policies, and select funding sources. The opportunity to define your own mission can also lead to unique personal experiences and, as John Engle discovered, profound spiritual rewards.

Engle started his own non-profit organization because he wanted to help the impoverished communities of developing countries firsthand. After seven years of working in corporate marketing and sales in the United States, Engle moved to Haiti and co-founded a literacy program called Beyond Borders. He does not sell products or services to fund Beyond Borders, but he still considers himself a social entrepreneur, which he defines as someone who "designs, implements, and finds resources for programs that effect social change." The orginization's collective structure is also entrepreneurial in spirit. "All the staff members have ownership. Our goal is to have an organization without bosses."

The average salary for U.S. staff members of Beyond Borders' is $27,000, plus grants for educational travel in Haiti. Annual salaries for the international staff in Haiti range from $2,400 to $9,600. While Engle's income sounds like a pittance to American ears, he points out that it's generous by Haitian standards. "I live on $800 per month and I'm not lacking anything," he says. "I am rich here-but you have to understand that I have neighbors who don't have enough food to eat and have no health care."

Engle also places high value on the personal and spiritual perks of being Co-director of Beyond Borders. "When I go to a small Haitian island and spend days with community organizers, that's where the inspiration comes from." He adds that the field of international development can provide substantial financial security, noting that there is tremendous demand in underdeveloped countries for professionals with consulting, banking, sales, technology, training, and leadership experience.

Wave of the future
Kate Schrauth has always let an entrepreneurial spirit guide her educational missions. At age 26, she and a friend started Artists for Humanity, an educational non-profit based in Boston that helps public high school students develop art and business projects. Now as Director of Development for Harvard Student Agencies Inc. (HSA), she helps students start and run businesses. Her current salary at HSA is around $45,000, and the benefits are first-rate.

So how can a business turn a profit and still be considered a non-profit? Basically, as long as your product or service is related to your mission, and all profits are reinvested in the organization, it works. For example, Artists for Humanity is funded by profits from the sale of student artwork. Similarly, profits from all HSA businesses are used to pay the student employees and to fund the organization's educational programs, staff salaries, and administrative costs. Both companies raise additional funds from traditional sources such as corporate gifts and grants.

Schrauth believes that social entrepreneurs are the wave of the future for the non-profit sector. "An entrepreneurial model provides an organization with cash flow, sustainability, and independence from traditional funding sources," she says. And greater cash can mean higher salaries, as well as more time for working rather than fund-raising.

When it comes to earnings potential for social entrepreneurs, Schrauth says the sky is the limit. She puts an established social entrepreneur's salary at as much as $70,000, and even higher. And although she took no salary for the first year and a half while starting Artists for Humanity, she thinks that with a solid business plan, you may be able to give yourself a salary sooner. "The short-term pay might be lower, but the long-term benefits can be huge," she says. "The advantage of being a social entrepreneur is that you're on the cutting edge of a new field. You can be at the top at a very young age."

Follow your mission
So how do you know which career path is right for your brand of Good Samaritanism? It all depends on what inspires you. Of course, figuring out what inspires you is not always simple. Even the noblest calling rarely appears in a sudden vision; more often than not, it's found through a process of elimination. If you intend to go the traditional non-profit route, look for organizations that are committed to paying for talent or that focus on well-funded hot causes. Coakley recommends volunteering as a great way to find out about different non-profits. For those who want a piece of the corporate world, Kelly suggests temping to "help you discover new skills and figure out where you fit in." You can also search the web for companies with organized philanthropy programs or strong track records for social responsibility.

If social entrepreneurship appeals to you, start making job choices with an eye toward launching your own non-profit. Put yourself in a position to acquire both business and program experience. That way, when you do find a cause that stirs your soul, you'll be ready to launch an organization yourself and make it a success. Schrauth encourages young people to let their social agendas guide their careers. "If you have basic business skills, you can achieve dramatic results," she says. "Let the mission drive your business decisions. The money enables you to do the work you want to, but the real bottom line should always be your mission."

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