The Nonprofit Employment Myth

Posted by GVT Admin on Oct 11, 2023 9:32:25 AM

Nonprofits executive meeting Our correspondents from the nonprofit sector tell us that most Americans are unaware of the dramatic impact that nonprofits have on the American economy. They say big “for-profit” business gets all the attention and economic acclaim while nonprofits are relegated to the insignificant “do-gooder” class of amateur “not for profits”.  This misperception has a deleterious effect on nonprofit’s ability to attract professional management and career orientated college graduates. Our correspondents tell us that our recent overview of the nonprofit sector failed to highlight nonprofit’s vast economic impact on the American economy. Let’s remedy that.

Nonprofits Are Big Business

  • There are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. 
  • The total U.S. nonprofit annual revenue is $2.62 trillion.
  • There are over 10 million nonprofit organizations around the world.
  • Nonprofits employ 10% of the U.S. workforce.
  • 5.7% of the United States GDP comes from nonprofits.
  • Some of America’s most renowned nonprofits are among the largest companies in the country. The most popular nonprofit organization, Feeding America, had income exceeding $4.06 billion in private donations in 2022.
  • Everyone knows the world-famous United Way that takes in $2.77 billion annually.
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital, founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, has grown to $2.34 billion in annual donations.
  • The famous bell ringers of the Salvation Army now collect over $2.34 billion every year.
  • Goodwill Industries, the YMCA, and Habitat for Humanity are three more nonprofits who need no introduction.

The Secret to Nonprofit Success

All the famous organizations cited above were begun by a single well-meaning person who saw human need and wanted to help. The passion for their mission fueled the startup and energized the early years of each nonprofit. But, as these well-known organizations continued to grow, they became more complex and required professional management to take over the helm and organize operations, recruit volunteers and paid professionals, and develop fundraising programs that would see them to their renowned status. In other words, the nonprofit sector eventually became big and highly successful business.


The professional managers who guided many famous nonprofits to legendary status were expert at engaging donors to the envy of many for-profit industrial concerns. Over the years they also worked hand-in-hand with government agencies who saw the need to participate in many nonprofit missions but did not have the infrastructure that the nonprofit community had erected. For example, by 2022 the nonprofit donor profile displayed the following aspects:

  • 56% of people in America donated to charity in 2022.
  • 45% of charitable donors worldwide are enrolled in a monthly giving program.
  • The average age of charitable donors in the United States is 64 years.
  • The average charitable donation amount was $574 in 2021.
  • 80% of all nonprofit revenue comes from government grants.

The ability of nonprofits to engage their customer base is the envy of every for-profit marketing department in the country. In short, the nonprofit segment of American industry is full of highly sophisticated and successful business enterprises that young management recruits should examine carefully before discarding the nonprofit employment opportunity as “not for me”. 

Employment Opportunities

Like any business, nonprofits need all the necessary sectors to function; marketing - public relations - writers - field operatives - IT -web design - human resources - legal - accounting - etc. All these positions pay competitive entry level wages and, in the larger nonprofits, offer the same management upward mobility as for-profit concerns. The myth that nonprofits are only looking for volunteers or altruists willing to work for below market wages on behalf of their mission is not true.

Nonprofits need your help…and they are eager and willing to pay for it.


For additional information please check out Nonprofit Statistics 2023-Financial, Giving, & Industry-Based Data @ donorbox.


Topics: Nonprofit General, nonprofit management

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