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Home  > Article

Does Nonprofit Equal No Profit?

By Amy Yelin

What if we told you that it is possible to make a good living while doing meaningful and rewarding work at the same time? Sound promising?

 
The paychecks of some nonprofit's top officials are often in the same six-digit ballpark as a professional athlete's.
 
What comes to mind when you hear the term "nonprofit?" If you're like many people, you associate it with words like charity, volunteer, and poverty. For people unfamiliar with the industry, nonprofit generally means "good work but no money." What if we told you that it is possible to make a good living while doing meaningful and rewarding work at the same time? Sound promising?


The Distinction

Unlike for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations exist to fulfill a mission and address the needs of a specific population, rather than earn a profit. Any money a nonprofit earns--through donations, special events, and other fundraising means--is immediately put back into the operations and activities of the organization, including employee salaries.

Types of nonprofits include everything from charitable and social service organizations like The United Way, to museums and arts organizations, educational organizations, and professional trade associations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Football League (NFL).

Future Potential
Although entry-level salaries throughout the industry are notoriously low, the financial outlook can get brighter with time and experience. In fact, the paychecks of some nonprofit's top officials are often in the same six-digit ballpark as a professional athlete's.

According to a 1997 survey published by Abbott, Langer and Associates, the highest paid Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in the industry make in excess of $300-$400,000! The typical portrait of such a generously paid CEO is one who is head of an international or national high-profile organization with 500+ employees, and an annual budget of at least $25,000,000.

The Other Half
While these salaries are impressive, it's important to keep in mind that about three-quarters of nonprofit CEOs make under $135,000, half make under $61,000, and one-quarter under $42,000. Although many factors affect pay rates--including the type of nonprofit, annual budget, part of the country, and an employee's education and experience--the general rule for compensation appears to be that the larger and more prestigious the organization, the higher the salaries. In addition to CEOs, Development and Fundraising Directors can often make lucrative salaries, especially those working in universities and hospitals. So while we discourage the money-hungry from going down the nonprofit path, we also dissuade humanitarians from shunning nonprofit organizations for fear of meager salaries. Do what you love and money will follow... but only in good time and with lots of hard work.







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