Working for Non-Profit Environmental Organizations
By Eric Hammer
Non profit environmental organizations such as the Sierra
Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (to name just a few
- a complete list is available at Wikipedia. See below) all need
good people to work for them. Jobs at such organizations include
activists, lobbyists, clerical staff and of course fund raisers.
There are also often jobs available at such organizations
which provide you with the chance to work with the public in
educational forums. The catch of course in working for non profit
environmental organizations is that they have limited funds and
don't "earn" money the way an ordinary company might.
Instead, they rely on donations. Especially in a time of austerity,
as we are currently going through (as of December, 2010), jobs
can be a bit hard to come by.
That having been said, if you are committed to doing this
kind of work with your life, then more power to you. It is definitely
possible to make a living and even a good living working with
non profits of all shapes and sizes. There are even a number
of job boards where jobs specifically intended for the non profit
world in general (though not necessarily for green jobs with
environmental organizations) are posted.
How Much Can You Make?
Don't expect to get rich working for an organization like
this. Most non profit environmental organizations operate on
a shoestring budget. However, even the bigger places which have
serious money to spend don't just throw it around offering high
Realistically, entry level jobs with these organizations,
such as clerical work will pay a little more than minimum wage.
Activists and educators typically earn on the low side of a middle
class wage (around $30.000-$60.000 depending on the position
and where in the country you are located) and upper management
typically earns in the high five figures to low six figures.
A notable exception is fund raisers. While most ethical fund
raisers will not work for a percentage of money they bring in,
successful fund raisers are easily able to command low to mid
level six figure salaries, assuming of course the numbers they
are bringing in go into the seven figure and even eight figure
areas. Even fund raisers at smaller organizations tend to earn
decent money, in the neighborhood of around $10-$15 per hour
to start. The catch of course is that you need to produce significantly
more than your own salary so that it makes sense for the organization
to keep you on staff.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
An additional word about fund raisers before moving on which
is related to this section: If you know how to do fund raising
(and by this, we mean fund raising in large numbers, not charity
boxes where nickels and dimes come in), a related opportunity
to this is to start your own fundraising consultancy. Fundraising
consultants (again, those who are ethical) also charge a per
hour fee, but do command fees in the range of $100-$250 per hour
if they are very good at what they do.
Beyond that, consider working with government agencies such
as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service and
the US Fish and Wildlife Service to find green jobs that don't
rely on the always iffy world of non profit environmental organizations.
Remember also that you are in a people business here. Even
though your goal is saving the earth, unless you are a whiz at
designing advertising campaigns or work as the staff accountant,
you'll likely be called upon to have significant contact with
the public. So keep a smile on your face and make sure that you
tout the party line.
In other words, if the environment is important to you, don't
toss the newspaper in the nearest trash can. Remember to reduce,
reuse, recycle; or even better, get an ereader and get your newspaper
electronically. This way, you'll have a significantly smaller
carbon footprint (the initial impact is larger because of the
manufacture of your ereader and shipping it to you, but over
a lifetime [of the reader, not your lifetime] of use, your carbon
footprint over-all is much smaller than if you read the print
newspaper and tossed it into the recycling bin).
Qualifications / Requirements
Generally, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and often
a masters degree or a PhD in your specialty. Since non-profit
environmental groups often have particular areas that the focus
on (marine biology, wildlife conservation, preserving rainforests,
etc.), it pays to figure out in advance what area of the environment
you are really excited about and to get a degree in that area
of study. The more qualified you are with college degrees, the
more likely you are to get a decent job doing interesting things
for the organization of your choice.
Start by volunteering for an organization or two that happens
to be of interest to you. Join their mailing list as well. Find
out from the staff what they actually do on a day to day basis.
Ask yourself if this is something you want to do with your life.
If it is, ask the staff what kind of qualifications you'll need
in order to land a job with them. Most people who work at non
profit environmental groups will both be happy to tell you what
you'll need and warn you that getting a job isn't easy since
there are a fairly limited number of positions to go around and
you have to be really good to get a job.
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about working
for non profit environmental organizations:
Wikipedia: List of Environmental Organizations
- While we tend to prefer not to use Wikipedia as a source (since
it can be edited by anyone, information there is sometimes suspect),
in this case, the information here could prove invaluable. This
is a list of hundreds of environmental organizations, making
it much easier to find places to apply to for work.
Mother Jones: A Guide to Non Profit Environmental
Organizations - While not as comprehensive as the list above,
the details here are much more comprehensive on the organizations
that they do list.
Profit Jobs - While not specifically aimed at the environment,
this is a great resource since it lists paying jobs with all
kinds of non profit organizations.
Profit Jobs Cooperative - Similar to the site above, this
is a general job listing for the non profit world.