A very interesting Give and Take item was highlighted in The Chronicle yesterday. Leave it to Dan Pallota of Harvard Business to outline the stark contrast between nonprofit and for-profit compensation. He breaks it down to the b-school (or b-school equivalent) crowd,
You must watch your classmates who chose the for-profit sector pass you by on the economic highway — buy homes in better neighborhoods, send their kids to better schools, drive safer cars, take better care of their aging parents, indeed serve on the boards of and direct the very charities that employ you — but you, because you have chosen to help the indigent, you must sacrifice — you can have none of this power, none of this security.
Individuals who choose work in the nonprofit sector cannot and should not expect to make an annual salary that is close to the private sector income earned in an equivalent position. Not even as a nonprofit CEO (ehem - see Food & Friends).
I think this crew of ReGenerates all support higher median wages for nonprofit workers as well as fair health and retirement benefits, especially for those who work on the front lines. And we must still demand better training, recruitment, and retention strategies for young nonprofiteers.
But shouldn't we also recognize that working in the nonprofit sector: a) allows many of us to pursue our passions for a lifetime; b) often offers a healthier environment for work/life balance; c) centers on values such as giving back and assisting the underserved; and d) helps us sleep a little easier at night?
I realize that sounds ridiculous and self-inflated. But you know what? My salary is moderate enough to allow me a corner of a soapbox. And this is my reality and the reality of many others like me. These are the intangible "benefits" that rocketed me out of a Masters program into the sector and it is what will keep me here.
Leave me to rest easy as my classmates "pass [me] by on the economic highway." I'll be driving my Civic in the slow lane, enjoying the breeze.