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Meaningful Work that Pays Well

Jobs With a Big Heart and a Big Paycheck


By Susan Johnston

The recession caused many people to re-think their careers. While some decided that any job is a good job, others started looking for more meaningfulwork. They want a gigs that gives back.

You may assume that meaningful work automatically means modest pay but that’s not always the case. According to Heather Krasna, author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service and director of career services at the Evans School of Public Affairs in Seattle, WA, “[salary] depends on the type of organization and its size and the job that you have.” She points out that large universities, hospitals, and religious organizations are all examples of nonprofits that pay skilled professionals to make them successful.

Here are just a few possible career paths for those who want satisfying work and a decent-sized paycheck.

1. Development Director - $60,800

Depending on the size of the organization, a development director might focus on cultivating major donors or planning events. Or, like Jessica Schmidt-Bonifant, who works for a small nonprofit organization in Maryland, he or she might do a little of everything. “I do grant writing and reporting, marketing and PR, donor relations, mailings, annual reports, newsletters, alumni giving, planned giving and donor research,” says Schmidt-Bonifant, who has a background in PR and advertising. She adds that development isn’t just about asking people for money. Rather it’s about “figuring out how to connect the donor to the cause in a way that they feel fulfilled by it.”

2. Director, Community Relations - $54,000

Many nonprofits and for-profit organizations now have a community relations director or similar person who’s responsible for overseeing community programs or outreach efforts. John J. Bendel works as director of community investment at a small, privately-funded bank in Pittsburgh that runs several programs around affordable housing. Bendel says much of his job involves maintaining relationships with member bankers, policy makers, and non-profits, as well as attending conferences on affordable housing. He says, “The most gratifying part is going to the projects and seeing the people in the homes [we helped fund].”

3. Human Resources Director - $65,000 (salary specific to nonprofits)

Although some nonprofit jobs only exist in that sector (like development director), many other jobs, like human resource director, have a counterpart in corporate America. According to Jennifer Keys, human resources director at a nonprofit headquartered in Seattle, Wash., a passion for the organization’s mission is key. “In HR,” she says, “you have to sell your organization to your people every day and you can’t do that if you don’t love the mission and can’t articulate it to potential recruits, your employees, and the leadership of the organization.”

4. Sustainability Director - $71,847

Both nonprofit and for-profit companies are becoming more aware of their environmental impact, and some of those companies now have a job title focused on sustainability. Lara Pearson is a partner at a Nevada law firm who also serves as the firm’s pro bono chief sustainability officer. She says her role as CSO includes “examining our attorneys' and staff's energy consumption, transportation habits, paper and other materials consumption, and waste disposal practices.” In addition to setting a timeline and goals for reducing energy consumption, she’s also working to further social responsibility initiatives.

Boston-based freelance writer Susan Johnston has covered career and business topics for "The Boston Globe," "Hispanic Executive Quarterly," WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other publications.

More from PayScale:

Training for Green Jobs: Certificates and More

How to Succeed with a “Useless” Degree

Negotiate Working from Home

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