Best Traditional and Emerging Jobs in Nonprofit Organizations

The Jobs, Roles, and Pay from CEO to Fundraising Executive

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It’s easy to overlook the nonprofit sector while you’re job hunting or considering your future career. That might be a mistake, though. Nonprofit organizations have been the third-largest employer for several years.

Until recently, the nonprofit sector grew faster than the for-profit. According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Studies, between 2007 and 2017, the nonprofit job market grew three times faster than jobs in the for-profit world.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has put many marginal nonprofits in peril, the Johns Hopkins study reports that financially strong organizations will likely survive.

There is great variety in the nonprofit sector. When you’re on the hunt for a job in nonprofits, you’re likely to find something that suits you: small mom-and-pop style organizations, volunteer-run nonprofits, major hospitals, or even universities.

You can find nonprofit employment opportunities that trend toward the traditional (think Chief Financial Officer) or the trendy (Chief Culture Officer), and virtually anywhere in between.

Here are some of the best nonprofit jobs to add to your search, including the more “traditional” positions and ones that you might consider surprising for a nonprofit.

Traditional Nonprofit Jobs to Include in Your Search

Chief Executive Officer

The CEO or Executive Director is the leader of leaders in a nonprofit. The CEO oversees other executives, the integration of all departments, and the whole team's success. They are also responsible for the overall health and direction of an organization.

A nonprofit’s CEO will need to be passionate about the organization’s mission and its ultimate success. A dose of diplomatic ability will be equally important as the CEO works with his board of directors and numerous stakeholders.

The CEO engages the community and other organizations or partners to promote its programs, services, and objectives. Moreover, they take the lead in fundraising in cooperation with the board of directors and the development director.

Average salary: According to PayScale, nonprofit CEOs can earn between $53,000 and $208,000 annually—with an average annual salary of $102,804.

Education requirements: Most nonprofit CEOs have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, often in business administration or management. In recent years, universities have established degrees that prepare executives specifically for nonprofit positions. These programs include the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Public Policy.

Note: Another high-ranking executive is the chief operating officer or COO who oversees departments, thus freeing the CEO to focus on overall strategy, major fundraising, and external affairs The COO is mostly seen at larger nonprofits.

Chief Financial Officer

A chief financial officer (CFO) is responsible for the financial health of the organization. Overseeing cash flow, tax compliance, investments, and the organization’s bottom line, a CFO makes sure the financial side of an organization is in order.

CFOs also maintain financial record keeping, provide regular reporting, and manage an organization's financial risk, including identifying potential weaknesses and creating formal plans for the future. The CFO in a nonprofit environment also provides accountability to the public, funding organizations, and donors.

Average salary: PayScale reports a range of $76,000 to $224,000 annually, and an average annual salary of $135,582 for standard CFOs—though the pay may be lower for the same role at a nonprofit.

Education requirements: The most common degree that CFOs hold is a Master of Business Administration (MBA), but bachelor’s degrees in business administration, accounting, or other financial fields are also typical.

Director of Development

Think of the director of development as the chief fundraiser, who establishes a strategic fundraising plan, oversees the grants program, and connects with funding sources of all kinds. Typically, the development director also oversees public relations, media relations, and special event planning.

The director of development ensures that the organization has plenty of revenue streams to fund its operations. This role works very closely with the CFO, the CEO, and the board of directors.

Average salary: PayScale indicates a range of $43,000 to $103,000 in annual salary and an average salary of $65,435 for nonprofit directors of development.

Education requirements: Development directors have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in business administration, public affairs, or organizational management.

Note: Another high-ranking job connected to fundraising is the major gifts officer. This position might report to the development director or, in larger organizations, head up a separate department.

Director of Communications

Although communication often falls under the jurisdiction of the chief development officer, in a larger organization it may be separate. The director of communications oversees all publications, media relations, and community relations. They work closely with the development officer on fundraising materials and campaigns, as well as special events.

Average salary: PayScale indicates a range of $41,000 to $134,000 in annual salary and an average salary of $71, 561 for directors of communications. Nonprofit salaries may be smaller, depending on the type of organization and its size.

Education Requirements: Communications is a logical fit for people with a journalism degree and experience, but a bachelor's or master's degree in communications, marketing, and English, also work.

Emerging Nonprofit Jobs to Keep Your Eye On

While the jobs listed above are some of the most common in the nonprofit hiring world, there are also a few less traditional positions that may be just what you’re looking for.

Chief Culture Officer

According to Fast Company, “Culture, especially in small organizations where the staff is regularly connecting with community members, can make or break a nonprofit, just as it can a corporation.”

Many nonprofit organizations value their culture enough to create a position to promote employee engagement and productivity, maintain core cultural values, and bring a sense of vitality to the office environment.

Chief culture officers motivate employees through recognition of contributions and inspiring an innovative atmosphere. Culture officers aren’t just a makeover of the human resources department. They are something entirely new and different.

Average salary: While consistent numbers are hard to come by for this innovative job, salaries can range from about $20,000 a year to six figures as a top executive. The average pay for chief culture officers is $77,894, according to ZipRecruiter.

Education requirements: Most executive positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, and this position is no different. Degrees in communication or human resources may also be ideal.

Chief Data Scientist

As far back as 2012, the Harvard Business Review proclaimed that data science is the sexiest job of the 21st century.

It’s hard to beat that kind of tagline, but what does a data scientist even do?

With the massive amounts of data collected online, many organizations have more information than they can handle. Data scientists organize a nonprofit’s information, analyze outcomes, patterns, or trends, and incorporate that information into decision making.

Average salary: PayScale puts the range of pay for senior data scientists between $94,000 and $161,000 per year and reports that the annual average salary is $126,735. But, again, you may see lower numbers in the nonprofit sector.

Education requirements: You’ll need advanced information technology training and better than average analytical and business insight.

User Experience Designer and Director

As more and more of our daily transactions and interactions take place on screens, the experience we have as users becomes more relevant to an organization’s success.

User experience (UX) is so valuable that many organizations have created positions on their executive teams to focus on a positive user experience.

If you don’t think user experience is relevant to nonprofits, try using the donation forms on several nonprofit websites, or find your way to the information supporters might need. For a nonprofit, a good user experience can translate directly into financial support.

Average salary: Glassdoor indicates a range between $59,000 and $128,000 per year for UX designer positions, while PayScale reports that a UX director makes an average annual salary of $138,927. 

Education requirements: You’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a field like software engineering, computer science, or graphic design.

Final Notes

Keep in mind that these job titles can change. For instance, a "director" in some organizations might be a "vice president," or "manager." If one of these positions appeals to you, look for job descriptions that include the overarching themes mentioned. Not every nonprofit uses the same terms for each job listed here.

If you want to pursue executive management or a leadership job, try thinking outside the for-profit business sector. The nonprofit world offers many excellent career paths.