Land Your Dream Job
Careers that help you move from intention to action
Illustration of several US dollars on a teal background with a dark blue speech bubble.

“I don’t get paid enough.”

“I didn’t go into this to get rich, but I do need to pay the bills.”

You may hear these conversations during the in-between times—at the lunch table, at 9 p.m. when two colleagues are still at their desks, at the water cooler, or in the elevator on the way home.

Maybe you're worried about student loan debt, planning for the future, or just paying the bills, but the question of managing your money in the nonprofit sector is on everybody's mind at one point or another.

There are some ways to ease your financial anxiety without leaving the sector—check out our tips for evaluating your situation and taking clear steps toward managing your money.

1. Ask for a raise

If you think your current place of employment might be able to offer more money (you never know unless you ask!) here are some ways to position yourself for a raise:

  • Bring in the dough. It helps if you can show directly how your role is supporting the financial sustainability of the organization. While this is obvious for people working in development, most organizations actively encourage program staff involvement in fundraising and grant writing too. No matter your role, you are in a much stronger position to negotiate on salary if you’ve helped bring in the money to pay it.
  • Show your value. It’s not always easy to demonstrate how your work supports the financial well being of the organization, but you can show your value. Do incredible work and don’t be afraid to talk about it. In fact, look for opportunities to appropriately share the value you’ve added, and not just once you receive your review and want to negotiate a raise. Have a win with a client? Get an article published? Send an e-mail your boss sharing your excitement. Give your all. 

2. Embrace other sources of income

While our jobs are often our primary source of income, more and more people are thinking outside the 9-5 to get a little extra money when they need it, such as after a big expense or for extra spending money.

  • Freelance. WHAT??? Who has time to do that? Well, lots of people. It may not be easy, but it is an option. As the new economy grows you may find surprisingly simple and aligned opportunities to earn. Whether your role has to do with fundraising or social media or finance, chances are there are others who could use a small slice of your time and expertise. Of course, make sure to clear any side projects with work whenever necessary to be sure there are no conflicts of interest and look for opportunities that are aligned with the career you are building.
  • Consult. If you already have a few organizations that often ask you for your services, don’t be afraid to talk to them about a potentially on-going relationship. See how one woman did it.

3. Switch organizations, jobs, or cities

Sometimes the best way to get a salary bump is to move to an organization or role that will allow you to earn more money. Idealist's Nonprofit Salary Explorer is the perfect tool for discovering a career path that could help you earn more without having to leave the sector. Start by taking our survey to see how your current salary stacks up, then use our salary calculator to learn what other social-impact professionals are earning.

4. Reflect on your budget

Is the problem your salary, benefits, or budget?

Before making any extreme decisions about your current job, conduct an honest audit of your spending habits. Are you spending too much money on non-necessary expenses? If so, try to cut back a little at a time until your financial anxiety eases up a bit.

It's also smart to take a look at what your organization currently offers employees. Are you taking advantage of benefits, such as 401k matching, learning reimbursements, or free meals? Leaving this money on the table can set you back in your financial life, career, and retirement.

While financial stress is a common concern in social impact, there are practical steps you can take to improve your situation without leaving the field. By leveraging strategies like negotiating a raise, embracing side gigs, or reevaluating your budget, you may find that managing your money in the nonprofit sector is a lot easier than you think!

Cynthia Jaggi

Cynthia Jaggi is an entrepreneur and leadership expert for people who are looking to create massive impact. Through her writing and courses, she's here to shake up your approach to creating your most meaningful life and work while making it all feel like fun. She was named a lean-startup ambassador for her work bringing a lean approach to social impact and her insights have been featured on Business Insider, Women 2.0, and Idealist Career Adgice.

Explore Jobs on Idealist