Working for a Nonprofit

Parent Q&A

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  • I work as an admin at Cal and am looking to make the shift into development, as I think that's where my interests and talents converge. I find that transitioning into a Development job isn't easy, as I don't have Cal-specific database experience, and I don't have formal fundraising experience (although I'm a savvy relationship builder and I understand cultivation). 

    The Cal State certificate program seems like a hands-on overview of many facets of nonprofit fundraising, etc. I think I could use this simply for the education.  

    I'd love to know if  1) anyone has been through the program, and if you found it helped you in your work or helped you to find work,  and 2) if you're currently a UDAR employee or work in Development within an academic dept at Cal, how does one make a transition into Development? Would the certificate help?  I'm confident I could move in and learn on the job, but nobody wants to hand a portfolio to someone without direct experience, and I understand the hesitation! Thanks for any advice you might have. 

    I work in UDAR - it is a great place to be! I have also taken nonprofit classes at CSUEB. They are very good classes, but geared more to small nonprofits. To make the shift, I would suggest getting an admin job in UDAR and work your way up from there. Or work in development in one of the smaller units where you get to wear many hats. Good luck! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Non-profit salaries

June 2004

Is there a rule of thumb with respect to non-profit salaries? I'm applying to a job as a CFO/VP finance for a nonprofit. I don't want to insult them by asking for what I'm used to being paid, however, I don't want to be a chump and ask for far less than what they are willing to pay. I was thinking about 25% off of market rate? or 50%? My market rate would be $150,000 to $250,000 depending on the size of the company I would work for. want to move to nonprofit world

Non-profit salaries vary greatly by type of organization and budget size. In my opinion, salaries of over $100,000 are unusual unless you are working in the hospital/university/museum world or for a large social service non-profit. The now-defunct Management Center in SF puts out an annual salary survey that gives salary averages and ranges, with info broken down by non- profit budget, type of service, and other pertinent info. (By way of information/comparison, I make under $100,000, have an MBA, and work as the CFO of a social service agency with a budget greater than $10 million.) For me, issues of a balanced lifestyle and valuing the ''end product'' of my organization far outweighed the lower salary. Good luck! Happier in the non-profit world

If you email me, I will forward to you a salary scale I have for non-profit positions and it pretty much covers all of the job descriptions that you would see in a corporate environment. The scale is based on the operating budget of the non-profit you want to work for. Lena

When I moved from the for-profit (consulting) world to the non- profit world I took a 35% pay cut. However, salaries do top out lower in the non-profit world, so the discrepancy has probably increased as I have gained seniority. I believe that I now make approximately 50% of what I would make had I stayed in my consulting job. I've never looked back though. I love what I do. Also, since non-profits do pay less, the vacation benefits tend to be better than in the for-profit world (I get 5 weeks, and my husband, also in the non-profit world, gets 6 weeks) anon

The Management Center ( produces a yearly Wage and Benefit Survey for nonprofits that lists many different common job titles and their average salaries and benefits in each Bay Area county. Jen

As employee for a couple of nonprofits and board member of one, I believe a nonprofit should have a salary schedule set by their board of directors. Your salary should be fall within the range provided, with some flex depending on experience. I don't know if it's a law or anything, but it seems to be pretty universal. Asking if they have such a schedule when negotiations start might make things a whole lot easier to discuss! amy

It's hard to answer your question without knowing more about the nonprofit, since they vary greatly in size and budget. But in my experience in nonprofit finance (I was the CFO for a nonprofit with a $3 million budget), you will be very lucky if you can get even 50% of your ''market rate.'' I don't know of many nonprofits that pay any salaries over $100k. Larger organizations (especailly foundations) might be a different story. You should get the Management Center's salary survey, which will help you get an idea of different salaries at different types of nonprofits in the bay area. Good luck! anon

The Foundation Center in San Francisco has a book that lists Nonprofit salaries based on experience, college education, etc. If you call them and ask real nice the nice librarians might look it up for you and save you a trip! Tia

There is no rule of thumb, necessarily. It is often the finance leadership positions where nonprofit salaries are the farthest below market rate, though. I'm so glad you are wanting to go in this direction, as I have seen nonprofits really suffer from being unable to fill this important job with good people because of salary. At one I know of, all of the candidates for the finance VP job wanted more than the Executive Director. You don't say how big the NP is. You can find out what range they are offering and ask for the top, negotiating from there, I suppose. nonprofit careerist

My experience going from private company to non-profit was that I was paid 75-80% of my previous salary (position in private was Director of Finance and position in non-profit was CFO). As with most of these positions, if there are comparable agencies, they may match what similar organizations pay. If I were you I would pull the agency's prior year's tax return off of the internet to see what they paid their officers. Most non-profits (I used Guidestar, I think) have their tax returns posted there.

My perspective is that non-profits are mission driven and tend to focus on the folks who are providing direct services. Rarely do they put their money in finance - it is a very different mindset. In addition to not paying top people well, this extends to staffing levels. I met lots of CFOs who were doing very basic things like accounts payable, payroll, etc. So the workload can be extreme (and inappropriate) as well.

For this reason, I think $150-$250 is completely out of the range - $80-125k is the range I saw for CFOs in my industry (healthcare). anonymous

How to start a non-profit business

June 2003

Hi, Does anybody knows how to start a non-profit organization bussiness? and the benefits of it over the convential bussiness. I am interested in opening a store with a loan or through being a partner in a non-profit organization. Thank you , Fafy

The best way to start a non-profit corporation in CA is by reading the Nolo Press book on the subject (you can borrow it from the library). But given your question, it seems to me that what you want to do is not start a non-profit organization, but to get help from a non-profit corporation to start a store. There, I'm afraid I can't help you. anon

What's the current employment picture for non-profits?

April 2003

Now that I'm contemplating re-entering the work force after some time at home with my son, one of the areas I wanted to explore was the nonprofit sector. After college, and before moving into publishing, I spent two years as the publications coordinator for a think tank/nonprofit and enjoyed the sense that I was making a contribution to the larger world, as well as the flexibility the job afforded me. It has been eight years since I left, and the organization was in a different region, so both my contacts and familiarity with the current state of the nonprofit sector are rusty, at best.

For those who are currently involved in this sphere, I'd like to find out a few basic things: 1) what the current employment picture and opportunities are (severely impacted by the general downturn in the economy?) and 2) the names of any nonprofit clearinghouses or professional groups in the area.

I'm looking for flexible, part-time work (aren't we all?), and am particularly interested in organizations concerned with the arts, women's health, or children's issues, ideally in the East Bay.

Thank you for any and all advice! LK

I work at a nonprofit health organization based in Oakland. I think it's hard to generalize the job opportunity situation for all nonprofits in the Bay Area--it really depends on the size of the organization, their sources of funding, etc. Really, if you're interested in working at a nonprofit, you should just go ahead and explore the possibilities and not worry about the current job market.

If you are interested in a Bay Area nonprofit networking group, you might want to check out the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network at They have several listservs, including one for job listings, and also sponsor monthly networking events. Good luck! Tonya

You're in luck because the Bay Area has a lot of excellent nonprofit groups in the fields you are interested in. Of course money is tight, but there's always some turnover. You didn't mention that you needed to make a lot of money, which is definintely an advantage, but even there the Bay Area nonprofit salaries are relatively better paid than some other parts of the country.

Your first stop should be Opportunity NOCS, which is available online and at the Berkeley libraries. These list only nonprofit sector jobs in California, with Bay Area leading the way. Online there are several nonprofit job clearinghouses the names of which I don't remember off-hand. Opportunity NOCs, the Center for Nonprofit Management, or the Center for Community Change websites should all have good links to these other sites.

CompassPoint is a nonprofit that trains staff of nonprofits, based in SF if you want to brush up on skills.

You can also find nonprofit jobs most readily in the East Bay Express Classifieds, or go to the ''community directories'' links on or, or just do a search: Nonprofit Berkeley womens rights (or whatever).

Many groups of course have volunteer opportunities, and this is a good way to work your way into part-time paid work if you are patient.

Good luck! Betsy

Some good places on the web to search for nonprofit work are:

Young Nonprofit Professionals Network:
Opportunity Nocs:

Some of these sites also have a lot of information about the sector in general.

Good luck in your search! Veteran Nonprofit Worker

With regards to looking for jobs in the non-profit sector, these are my observations after six years working for non-profits in the Bay Area and four years in other regions.

(1) The downturn in the economy is seriously impacting many non-profits and they are barely hanging on to staff they have and thus, not hiring new folks. That may be a challenge. This is not universal, however. Larger organizations may have more resources to fall back on. Those organizations that rely on state funding and that are the most ''grass-roots'' are probably hurting the most.

(2) As far as finding a job, the three best online resources (and where my non-profit always lists when we are hiring) are, craigslist and also I find that even reading what is available each week for a couple of weeks on a site like opportunity nocs will give you an idea of some of the organizations that are out there and jobs you might be suited for and just how much or how little you will make. Also use any alumni job listings services you might have through your alma mater.

(3) Personally, found it difficult to break into the non-profit community here in the Bay Area, even with experience and a relevant graduate degree. It may have been particular to the issue area I was looking to work with at the time, direct services for low income teens, but it took me a long time to get colleagues and potential employers to trust me. I worked a bunch of part-time jobs and did lots of volunteering which helped me get where I wanted to go eventually. I love my job now. You may find that volunteering (if you can afford it) is a good track into an agency or that volunteer experience may help another agency take you more seriously.

(4) Right now there are many, many unemployed people with for-profit experience trying to make the transition to the nonprofit sector. It can be hard for people who have been committed to service work for many years to be receptive to these newcomers.'' I think we often judge their motivations and perhaps not always fairly. I guess this is just a warning that you may not be as warmly recieved as you might have guessed.

(5) One set of job skills that is always needed in nonprofits is fundraising. If you are a good writer and if you would be interested in development work, you are in a good position. There are always, it seems to me, plenty of development jobs to be had and generally, they pay better than direct service and even managment often. Good luck! Whitney

You may also want to try They have a monthly newsletter which includes job listings at local associations (many of whom are non-profit). Juliette

I worked for fourteen years in the nonprofit sector before I resigned to be a stay-at-home mom (over 2 years ago) and had mostly positive experiences and one really negative one.

I worked at one organization for 13 years and it was a very good experience--challenging and interesting work, a great group of people, warm fuzzies from doing work that I felt ''made a difference'', and reasonably generous compensation and benefits.

I worked at another organization for one year and it was sheer Hell--a mean-spirited penny-pinching administration, politically-motivated backstabbing among the senior staff, and constant staff turnover. I was initially warned against going there and didn't listen much to my eventual regret. There were 13 resignations in the 12 months I was there plus I had 4 different supervisors in the same time period.

So, based on my experiences, I would try to determine whether the organization I wanted to work for has the following:
--staff stability
--funding stability
--a charismatic leader (they can be really terrific or really a nightmare to work for)

If you get a sufficient network established of folks who are currently working in the sector, they can help you target the organizations where you are likely to enjoy the work you are doing and feel good about making a difference. Hopefully, they can help you avoid the bad organizations too because they are definately out there. All the best! sj