5 Myths About Nonprofits and 5 Reasons Why You Should Work for One


First off, what is a nonprofit? In short: nonprofits work towards improving a social or environmental cause, and the extra revenue they make doesn't go to their leaders, shareholders or employees, but towards furthering their mission. The key to a nonprofit is in its accountability, trustworthiness and transparency in its finances and company behavior. They are accountable to the public, the community and those who have invested time and money into the organization such as donors, volunteers, funders and more.

However, there is an unrelenting stigma that surrounds the nonprofit sector that casts doubt on many job-seekers and perhaps even draws disdain from others. Some popular questions might be: Are nonprofits simply failed for-profits? Will I be paid a fair wage? Will others look down on me for working for a cause rather than at a top paying job at a for-profit company? What about those terrible news stories we hear about nonprofit executives making unbelievable amounts of money from their nonprofit and donors, instead of giving it to those they promise to help?

These are real and fair questions that anyone might consider when applying for a nonprofit, but the answers to all of these questions?

Wellllll..... It's complicated.

Because there's so much more than meets the eye about a nonprofit that can't be answered simply with a yes or no.

But HEY. This article is written and being featured on a YMCA webpage, so we MUST be biased, right? Maybe. I mean, the reason why we do what we do is because we care about our community (and the future of the world), and because we really want to debunk some of these nonprofit myths out there, so hear us out.




1. Nonprofits are run solely by volunteers so I won't get paid

Now this is just incorrect. Most nonprofits hire professional staff and also use the skills of volunteers in furthering their mission. Many nonprofits are beginning to function more like for-profit businesses in order to stay afloat in today's modernizing economy, so rest assured, you will get paid. Not to mention it’s not only illegal to pay anything less than a minimum wage, but nonprofits are dissected with a fine tooth comb whenever finances are involved.

At the Summit Area YMCA, we certainly hire professional staff at all levels to ensure we have the expertise in providing top quality services to our community, but of course, we would be nowhere without our volunteers. We are, in fact, led by a group of cause-driven volunteers. Our Summit Area YMCA Board of Trustees are all volunteers who are passionate about strengthening the foundations of community. They dedicate their time and treasure to help our organization establish operating policies, provides planning and strategic direction, and help secure the resources we need to promote change in the community and advance the YMCA's mission. So while not all of our staff are volunteers, we are a volunteer led organization that thrives off the passion and hard work of individuals who care about a better tomorrow in the name of social responsibility.


2. Nonprofit salaries are low and employees are underpaid.

Now that you know that you do indeed get paid at nonprofits, the next assumption is that nonprofit jobs don't pay much. So let's get right to it and be real. Money makes the world go 'round and we all need it (to some extent) to survive and feed ourselves and/or our loved ones. The truth of the matter is, because it's required that excess profit in a nonprofit business must be used to further the nonprofit's cause, salaries at a nonprofit are typically 5-10% lower than for-profit companies. We're not allowed to pocket the extra money, because we are here to do GOOD.

HOWEVER, larger nonprofit organizations, especially if they are in larger cities, are able to pay competitive salaries. Furthermore, according to the U.S. News & World Report, nonprofits are typically able to offer impressive benefits and compensation in their hiring packages.

When you work for the Summit Area YMCA, you get a free YMCA membership because we believe in the importance of encouraging healthy lifestyles. Just sayin'. Furthermore, while we can't speak for all nonprofits, we at the Summit Area YMCA are proud to say that as the area's leading nonprofit organization, we pay fair and competitive wages for all of our employees so that we can ensure quality services that are reflective of our passion in furthering our mission. Our employees aren't lining their bathrooms in gold, but we do a pretty good job of making sure our staff are happy and comfortable. Just check out our ratings on Indeed! 

3. Nonprofit employees are all overworked.

This is just not true for all nonprofits. There may be certain industries that have longer hours, but there are nonprofit positions that can enjoy the usual 9-5 that other companies are. This might vary from one position to the next, of course. Being socially responsible has no punch clock.

At the Summit Area YMCA, thanks to labor laws in NJ, our views on the importance of work-life balance, AND the fact that we need to make sure our money goes towards serving our community to impact countless individuals and families for the better, you don’t need to worry about working overtime. Secondly, we recognize the fact that overworked employees are unhappy employees, which leads to providing poor services and unhappy customers, which means less impact in strengthening our communities. 

4. Nonprofits are not diverse and only hire people with the same beliefs.

No, no, and also NO. That statement is simply wrong on so many levels, we can't even.

Nonprofits look to hire a variety of individuals with different backgrounds and abilities, and the Summit Area YMCA is no exception. As with any business, especially for organizations working for meaningful change, understanding the value of diversity and hiring staff and volunteers with different creeds, perspectives and ideas help to contribute and enhance the cause through innovation.

The Summit Area YMCA is New Jersey's first recognized Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation Network YMCA and works everyday with staff, volunteers and community members to provide a welcoming, inclusive space for all to learn, grow and thrive. From offering Spanish dance group fitness classes, to monthly events and activities for children with diverse abilities, to celebrating cultural events like Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, the Summit Area YMCA's diverse staff and volunteers are continuously developing innovative, multicultural and inclusive programming for our community. We even have an international partnership with the YMCA of Peru, where we learn from each other's programs such as child care, teen programming, membership, fitness and more!

To learn more about the Summit Area YMCA's commitment to diversity, inclusion and global innovation (DIG) visit www.thesay.org/dig.



5. Nonprofit employees couldn't get hired at for-profit companies.

Ouch, that hurts. Other than the sheer fact that it's just plain disrespectful to think that way about nonprofit employees, this myth is just not true. Fueled by the misconception that nonprofits only utilize volunteers, and the idea that volunteer work can be performed by anybody, nonprofit employees are viewed with this biased lens. However, there is a great deal of volunteer work that requires special knowledge, skills and training. Can you imagine the Red Cross hiring blood donation staff that had no medical training and skills? Yikes.

Just like any other industry, professionals at nonprofits do what they do because they have the motivation and passion for a specific cause. Nonprofits hire staff and volunteers with a large range of experience from experts, specialists, scientists, MBAs and PhDs to help further their cause with the best guidance. People working in the nonprofit sector are skilled, resourceful, passionate and talented individuals.

From the Board of Trustees to the Leadership team, the Executive Directors to the part-time Afterschool child care teachers, all of the staff working at the Summit Area YMCA are hired with a shared commonality: positive moral values and a passion to make change. If you've ever talked to our staff, you'd be surprised to learn what they were doing before they worked with the Y. We've even hired scientists and aerospace engineers! Each and every employee has a unique and irreplaceable career experience that contributes to the effectiveness of the organization. As an equal opportunity employer, we welcome all to apply for positions at the Summit Area YMCA, regardless of your background, culture, belief, race, and more. Of course, experience and expertise is a large factor that we consider to ensure we continue providing the best services and experiences to the community we serve.

At this point you might be asking yourself, so why do people want to work for nonprofits, if not for the money?


1. A Great Start to Your Career

Being young and restless is what makes a first job at a nonprofit one of the best career experiences you can get. A resume with experience working in a nonprofit tells employer a couple things: you believe in a cause and it says great things about your moral compass and personal character. Furthermore, because nonprofits are usually under-resourced (unfortunately), you'll get opportunities to learn different skills and gain invaluable job experience that you can apply to different situations in your future.

2. It's a Great Place for a Career Change

There's something to be said when it's being reported that Nonprofit Workers are Happier than Private Sector Employees. Sometimes, higher pay does not mean better life satisfaction. You can't bring money into the grave with you, and people won't remember you for how much money you make, but what you did with your life. If you're wondering if there's more to life than your current job, finding purpose in an organization whose cause you believe in is worth looking into.

3. You Know You Are Making a Difference

When you're working for a nonprofit, there's a personal sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to what you do because you know for a fact that what you do is changing lives for the better. Whether it's to improve the environment, helping disaster relief, or providing families with food and more, what you do is actually helping others rather than other jobs in the private sector that simply seek to capitalize on consumers for personal gain. You can concretely and proudly say, "I'm making a difference in this world."

With the Summit Area YMCA, we quite literally impact individuals in our community from infancy into adulthood for the better of us all. From providing affordable child care and positive youth development programs and classes, to providing services as well as free programs to encourage healthy living for all ages, and also providing opportunities for community members to be socially responsible, we are an organization that strengthens community. We help struggling families get access to nutritious food and empower cancer survivors with confidence and strength (for free). We provide free 7th grade memberships to provide teens with a safe social space and help teens establish healthy habits that follow them into adulthood. We help prevent senior isolation with a welcoming space for fitness and social camaraderie. There's nothing that we don't or won’t do at the Summit Area YMCA, and we are extremely proud of that.

Just watch this video about Sianneth and her son Gaven and you'll see what we mean. 

Our The Learning Circle YMCA teachers were not required to call or email Sianneth to check on Gaven's health. They did it because they cared. Because at the Y, you're family, and because the employees we hire at the Y are passionate, good people who are raising our kids, making people healthier, and helping their neighbors, for a stronger community, for a better us.



4. Forbes and Indeed says so.

In a survey conducted through Indeed, Forbes reported the top 10 best nonprofits based off 15 million company reviews. The ratings were provided in categories of benefits, work-life balance, job security and growth, management and culture.

To further toot our own horn ('cause we can and cause Forbes said so first) The YMCA was also ranked #6 on Forbes's Top 10 Best Nonprofits to Work For.


5. Nonprofit work enriches your life

It won't be easy and there will be plenty of work, but it will be an experience you will never forget that will enrich your life in more ways you can imagine.

For example, one of our staff members who oversees Sundays in Motion at the Summit YMCA (a monthly program that allows children with diverse abilities and their families to enjoy free gym and swim time at the Y for 2 hours) shared this heartwarming story:

"Not all families, especially Special Needs families, have things to do or places to go on weekends and holidays. At the Y, we can provide that and make them feel welcome and safe in a fun environment. But I'm not going to lie, working on Sundays can sometimes be a bummer—who doesn't like to have a weekend to themselves once in a while?

But this past Sunday, I along with our team, Allison Zeimann and Susan Guber, we left feeling euphoric. In addition to having our auditorium set up with various play equipment, we incorporate games that allow the children, parents, and volunteers to interact with each other. While playing Duck, Duck, Goose, one of the moms of a special needs child, who was also playing the game, suddenly leapt up from the game elated, with the BIGGEST smile on her face, and gave us the thumbs up sign.

She kept mouthing, "This is the first time, this is the first time!" After the game was over, she came up to me and said, "This is the FIRST time he has ever played a game. And he was verbalizing. I send him to socialization classes and other things and he never seems to get it or engage. Today he not only got it, but he played the game. Duck, Duck, Goose is a milestone!"

She drove over an hour to get to us, but said she was thankful for what we do and that she can't wait until next month.

Honestly, this was my Greatest. Sunday. Ever."

Read more about Maria's post here

At the end of the day, the nonprofit world is not for everybody. Everyone has different priorities and beliefs in life and we get that. You won't get rich in a small nonprofit company, and even if you do end up with a salary that makes more than your average nonprofit, the public will scrutinize you and question whether or not you're misusing donor funds for your own benefit (thanks to a few bad eggs out there who ruined nonprofit reputations for us all). But understanding the differences between for-profit companies versus nonprofits, along with the challenges that nonprofits face can help job seekers understand more about themselves, their goals and what they want to achieve in life.

If you're ready to make a difference, apply for a job for a nonprofit today and be empowered to make our world a better place. Better yet, join our Y family! We’re currently looking for amazing community members to join our team. Opportunities are available in Member Services, Wellness, Child Care, Group Exercise, Association Services and more. Your future awaits... browse opportunities today!


• Before & After-School Staff 
• Member Services Staff
• Childcare Staff
• Personal Trainers
• Group Fitness Instructors (Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Barre, etc.)
• Swim Instructors
• Youth Enrichment Instructors
• Wellness Staff
• Teen Program Staff
• Bus Drivers
• Birthday Party Staff

And more!





In 1886, we were founded as the Young Men's Christian Association, but today, we are The Y. Part of a world-class organization, we are one of the area’s leading nonprofits, that values, and is made stronger by, its diverse people. The Summit Area YMCA is committed to strengthening community by connecting all people to their potential, purpose, and each other. Working locally, we focus on empowering young people, improving health and well-being, and inspiring action in and across the New Jersey communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. By bringing together people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and generations, we ensure that we all have access to the opportunities, relationships, and resources necessary to learn, grow and thrive.

Our commitment to equal opportunity regardless of gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation shines through in the more than 15,000 individuals we serve annually in our free and fee-based programs and services. We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive culture in which our four core values — responsibility, honesty, caring and respect — are integral to everyday operations, as they guide everything we do. Every day, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone can reach their full potential and we strive to live our cause with purpose every day. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those in need. No matter who you are or where you’re from, we believe that we’re stronger when we come together. The Y. For a better us.