Is low salary stopping you from working at an NGO?

Posted by | October 1, 2014 | Find your mission, How to change jobs, Looking for work, Salary negotitation

0 Is low salary stopping you from working at an NGO? blog header

Stories of people who have chucked in their corporate job to work for a charity often feature in magazines these days. Have you thought of doing the same? Those beaming photos of the people who have done it are a great advertisement for the switch. What’s stopping you? You’d be earning less to take a job that sits better with your conscience? Hmm. That might be true. But there are more than financial considerations when deciding whether to take a job.


Do your research. Find out how much charities are paying for your role.

The world is changing, there may not be as big a difference as you imagine.  But, work out the difference between the two salaries and ask yourself some good questions. Is that number an insurmountable difference? Can you come to terms with that cut in salary? Sometimes just a tweak of attitude is required to make the jump to a lesser pay structure.

Are there other non-financial perks that you’re not taking into account – do you have less of a commute each day, can you work from home a day or two a week, could you have flexible hours, or negotiate a nine-day fortnight to make up for this decreased salary.

On a practical level, a change in salary might call for a personal review of financial needs and priorities. This process is easier when you are single, childless or if your kids are grown up. But even with young children, it is possible.

Skim through this list and look at where you can make savings in your daily life:

  • Spend up large at the grocery store? Grow a garden and join a food co-op.
  • Do you holiday overseas annually? Travel within New Zealand and look forward to an overseas jaunt every five years instead.
  • What do you spend on clothes a year? Work it out. Go on. I think you might be surprised. If yours was a big number, I think you can halve or quarter it. How? No impulse buys…walk away, if you still want it a week later, go get it. Buy second hand. There are plenty of op shops, save marts, slightly pricier consignment stores or you can trawl trademe. No need to make concessions on looking good. Just spend less doing it.
  • How much alcohol do you drink? It’s pricey stuff and not all that great for you, cut down a tad?
  • Takeaways and meals out? Just do it less. Candlelit dinners with friends at home are fun. Or ye olde pot luck dinners?
  • Taking your lunch to work and keeping your coffee drinking based at home can save big bucks too. Seriously! Those little expenses add up.

Do the sums and see what savings you come up with. Does that total make up for the difference in salary? Can you make it work?

There is, of course, that priceless thing called ‘job satisfaction’. How much is it worth to you?

Knowing that your work is helping make the world a better place is worth different amounts to different people. We spend a huge amount of time at work and it may as well be something we love and reflects our personal ethics. The Buddhist precept of ‘right livelihood’ comes to mind.

The gap IS closing but jobs in the charity sector are generally still not as well paid as their equivalents in corporate world.

Still, I have yet to meet someone who made the shift to working at a charity say they regretted it.

by Anissa Ljanta

About Anissa: Her colourful working life has been in NGO/charity sectors, the arts, and otherwise progressive world changing projects. She pronounced herself a writer at age 5. Anissa still loves to write, works freelance, and is a blogger and Online Content Specialist and Social Media Trainer for Do Good projects. She is a lover of wild places, a homeschooling mama, a compulsive crafter, a gardener, and op-shopping queen.

She makes, rants, bakes and blogs over at



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