Tips By Millennials, For Millennials On Surviving Your Nonprofit Gig

Tip #1: “Don’t work at one.”

Tips By Millennials, For Millennials On Surviving Your Nonprofit Gig

More than almost anything, Millennials value work with purpose. But their fresh-faced idealism may open the door to years of peonage in the underpaid, overworked nonprofit sector. The sad irony is that the same people who commit to helping those less fortunate or fighting back against injustice often end up invisible and disrespected themselves.


Youngist, a polished Tumblr maintained by a team of under-24 year olds, has some advice on avoiding getting screwed in the nonprofit game.

Most notable is the writer, “Jade(d)’s” Here are some of our favorite of her tips. (Read the rest here):

Tip #1: Don’t want to be exploited with a job at a nonprofit? Don’t work at one.

“Working at a nonprofit generally involves at least some level of exploitation.”

However, Jaded explains, different flavors of exploitation are offered at small and large nonprofits. Unfortunately, there is usually an inverse relationship between the degree of exploitation and the “street cred” offered by the job. Working in direct service or grassroots organizing, going door to door, say, has the worst hours and the worst wages, but also brings you closest to the problems you’re ostensibly concerned about. Working for Unicef or the Gates Foundation probably means better pay and conditions–hey! air conditioning!–but your grittier radical vegan friends in bandanas and chain wallets will despise you.

Tip #2: Make sure you really care about the issue.

“Every job involves doing some stuff that you don’t want to do, but the boring stuff should at least be training you in some small way for the career that you actually want.”

There’s no point in purpose-driven work if it’s not your own personal purpose.


Tip #3: Set boundaries.

“People who don’t take care of themselves burn out and often become jaded and bitter. You can’t sustain ‘the movement’ if you don’t sustain yourself.”

Safeguard your own time and energy, because no one else is going to protect it. Sleep, weekends, or seeing friends–you can’t have all three in the nonprofit grind, but pick the one that’s most important.

For more great advice, check out the post.

About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation.