6 Nonprofit Careers [Job Titles, Salaries & Outlook Explained]

4 min read
6 Nonprofit Careers [Job Titles, Salaries & Outlook Explained]

Nonprofit organizations are in great need of a crucial resource — high potential leaders and qualified managers at all levels. The shortage of employees is not a new challenge, but was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonprofit corporations are often created to serve a particular cause — for example, advocating for social services, the environment, arts, culture or health initiatives — but are often challenged by a shortage of resources or inconsistent financial support. Many workers in the nonprofit sector, however, find good paying jobs and they derive incredible value from their service to a social cause.

Consider these nonprofit facts for more insight into what’s often referred to as the third sector, aptly named to distinguish a unique societal role from the private and public sectors.

  • There are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S., including public charities, private foundations, chambers of commerce, civic leagues and so on.
  • Individuals were collectively the largest source of charitable giving in 2021, totaling $326 billion, or 67% of total giving.
  • The vast majority of affluent households — 86% — maintained or increased their giving in recent years, despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Most charitable dollars in 2021 went to religion, education, human services, grantmaking funds and public-sector benefit, in that order.

There is a broad spectrum of career paths in the nonprofits sector, spanning from program development to outreach efforts, fundraising, advocacy and more.

Salary Range for Careers in Nonprofits

Do nonprofits pay well? It’s a common — and fair — question in donation-driven work. Because nonprofits are tax-exempt, and must follow strict requirements to maintain charitable status, compensation at the upper end must be “reasonable” but not “excessive.” Organizations must follow state and federal minimum wage requirements, and are allowed to pay overtime and bonuses to workers.

Average annual nonprofit salaries range from approximately $31,369 to $84,931, though executive leaders can earn upwards of $190,000. As with any career, pay varies depending on the location, responsibilities of the job, experience, educational attainment and the discretion of the employer. In a recent survey of Southern California nonprofit leaders, CEOs with a masters degree earned, on average, $18,000 more per year than their peers who did not have a graduate-level degree.

Types of Careers in Nonprofits

The following list includes positions common within nonprofit organizations, as well as introductory information about each.

  • Senior Management
    • Executive director
      • Responsible for overseeing the overall management and operations of the organization.
    • Chief operating officer
      • Works closely with other top management to ensure efficient and effective implementation of plans.
    • Director of philanthropy
      • Oversees all fundraising and philanthropic efforts. Works with stakeholders to determine financial goals and create a roadmap to achieve them.
  • Programs and Service Delivery
    • Program director
      • Manages specific programs or initiatives aligned with the organization’s mission and goals. This includes monitoring and tracking progress, as well as analyzing data to realize successes and failures.
    • Volunteer manager
      • Oversees the organization’s volunteers during every step of their involvement, from recruitment and onboarding to training, supervision and support.
    • Community service program coordinator
      • Develops, implements and evaluates programs that address community needs, engage volunteers and make a positive impact.
  • Administration and HR
    • Administrative assistant
      • Provides vital support to ensure smooth operations and efficiency across departments. Tasks include data entry, database management, meeting and event coordination and correspondence.
    • Office manager
      • Supervises administrative operations and manages day-to-day activities of the office.
    • Compliance coordinator
      • Ensures that the organization operates in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations, ethical standards and internal policies.
  • Finance
    • Finance manager
      • Focuses on financial stability, accountability and compliance with financial regulations.
    • Accountant
      • Reports financial data and maintains records. Heavily involved in the process of budgeting and forecasting.
    • Financial analyst
      • Provides financial insights and assists in financial planning and decision-making processes.
  • Development and Fundraising
    • Grant administrator
      • Manages the grant process from start to finish. Must stay updated on available funding and work closely with program managers, finance staff and other stakeholders to gather information and articulate the organization’s needs and impact.
    • Fundraising coordinator
      • Plans, coordinates and executes fundraising initiatives.
    • Development coordinator
      • Helps create and distribute donor materials, supports fundraiser campaign efforts and manages event logistics.
  • Communications and Marketing
    • Communications coordinator
      • Creates communication strategies to promote the organization’s mission, programs and activities.
    • Grant writer
      • Prepares and submits grant applications, including proofreading and ensuring overall compliance with guidelines.
    • Special events coordinator
      • Plans, organizes and executes special events to support fundraising, donor engagement, community outreach and overall awareness of the mission.
Career PathDescriptionAverage Salary Range
Senior ManagementResponsible for overseeing the management and operations of the organization. While the specific duties may vary depending on the organization’s size and focus, common responsibilities include strategic planning, board governance, evaluation and report preparation. $106,980-$118,570
Administration and Human ResourcesKeeps records and documentation regarding all aspects of the organization. Recruitment and onboarding responsibilities are typically handled within this department.$67,900-$106,500
FinanceManages financial resources and budgets accordingly based on the organization’s current and projected needs. Often prepares and presents financial reports to stakeholders, including the board of directors, executive leadership, funders and donors, depending on chosen structure.$38,685-$91,241
Development and FundraisingFinds and secures financial resources, which often involves forming relationships with donors. Developing fundraising initiatives is another main focus.$40,800-$108,800
Communications and MarketingResponsible for conveying the organization’s message, raising awareness about its mission and programs and engaging stakeholders. These roles involve strategic communication planning, branding, media relations, digital marketing and public outreach. $64,161-$111,000

If you’re considering any number of careers in nonprofits, or looking to enhance your skills, consider USD’s 100% online Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management degree to build or develop critical skills. As you explore educational opportunities that align with your goals, reference the free USD evaluation guide to help narrow down options.


Get Your Ultimate Evaluation Guide

If an Online Graduate Degree is in Your Future, Analyzing All Your Options Can Help You Make the Best Investment

Choosing an Online Master's Degree: The Ultimate Evaluation Guide