Money or Meaning: Do Impact Careers Always Require a Tradeoff?

One of the more frustrating dilemmas, when it comes to thinking about an impact career, is the question of salary. You want to make a difference in the world and do work that matters, but you also need to get paid. Maybe you have student loans to pay off or a family to support, or you just want to feel like your salary appropriately reflects the value that you bring to an organization. Those needs are reasonable, but reconciling salary requirements with an impact career path often feels impossible.


There are also other positions that might hit the sweet spot between money and meaning for you. You might consider working in a “traditional” business role like finance or brand management for an established values-based business—such as one of the bigger organic food companies or outdoor apparel retailers. In a values-based business, you might not be working directly on environmental or social issues yourself, but you can feel satisfaction in working for a “good” company.

On the other hand, if your passion is calling you to work for a nonprofit organization or social enterprise, you can expect lower salaries. We could certainly debate whether this practices helps or hurts the nonprofit sector (Dan Pallotta made a compelling case for why nonprofits should pay more at the 2014 Net Impact Conference), but it is the reality of the nonprofit job market today.

If you think carefully about what compensation you require, in total, you may be able to find the perfect balance of financial reward for rewarding work.



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