Can a Non-Profit be Your Side Hustle?


As a millennial, I’ve heard and seen the term “side hustle” more times than I care to count. Side hustles are all the rage for young people (or really anyone) trying to make a little extra cash. Personally, I’m on the fence about this term. While I’m the kind of person who always has something extra going on in her life (running a non-profit, starting a blog, thinking about launching an Etsy shop), I also think that the reason so many millennials have side hustles is because the economy was not so great when we were coming of age. So we’re either worried that we’re eventually going to get laid off (like so many of our parents) OR we’re not making enough money at our full-time jobs OR we’re trying to get extra experience so we can eventually make more money so if we do get laid off we’re more marketable.

At any rate, there are plenty of legitimate reason to want or need a side hustle, but many folks also want to give back to the community in their spare time. Unfortunately, having a side hustle (or many side hustles) can reduce your spare time and not allow you to volunteer in a traditional manner. Which leads us to the question – can a non-profit be your side hustle?

My answer is maybe? Emphasis on the question mark. In truth, it depends on what exactly it is you want out of your side hustle.

Extra cash on your mind?

  • There are non-profit jobs you can do on the weekends and in the evenings. You could be a docent or security guard at a museum. Or you could teach an art class in the evenings. These positions won’t necessarily bring home the big bucks, but you could be doing something you love for a little bit of cash.
  • If you work in the for-profit world, consulting for a non-profit is a great way to earn a little bit of money. Accountants and lawyers are always in high demand. 50% of non-profits are basically “kitchen table groups.” What does that mean? They’re not incorporated and they do all the work themselves. What does this mean for you? Charging $500/hr is probably not something many of these groups can afford. You’ll want to lower your rates if you want to receive money for your work.

Want to gain experience?

While earning extra money is the main purpose of a side-hustle, I do think people undervalue the importance of the experience you gain through your side-hustle. While many non-profits may not be able to pay you for your services, volunteering in some capacity can be worthwhile.

  • Volunteering for a non-profit is an excellent way to gain experience. Many for-profit workers complain to me that to get to the next level of their career, they need more experience or different experience that they can’t get in their current position. Non-profits are often more than happy to give you a different experience than your day-to-day job. Work in accounting but want to branch out into marketing? Reach out to a non-profit!
  • Serving on a board looks great on a resume. This kind of experience shows maturity and dedication to your community. If you work for an organization (or want to to work for an organization) that values community service and has strong roots in their surrounding area, then volunteering on a non-profit board would definitely help your career.
  • Starting a non-profit is an good, but tough way to gain experience that’s translatable to your career. In fact, some of the processes of setting up a non-profit are similar to that of setting up a business. You’ll fill out some of the same state forms, develop a business plan and a strategic plan, come up with a mission, and so on. The leadership skills you develop are great if you’re looking for a managerial promotion, especially if you’re president of the board and managing volunteers. Reviewing financials and planning the budget will give you some finance experience. And since nothing gets done without email marketing and social media, you’ll gain marketing and social media management experience.

As you can see, there are a few ways to make a non-profit your side hustle, as long as you’re looking more for the experience than to make a lot of money. Above all, don’t start a non-profit with the intention of making money for yourself. Yes, non-profits need money to sustain them and they should pay people a living wage. But it takes time to raise the kind of money you need to support a part-time employee. I’m the Executive Director of Super Heroines, Etc.,  but I’m unpaid because we simply have not raised enough in our short existence to pay a salary. In a sense, starting a non-profit is a great side hustle because you’re motivated by the cause and you need to put in a lot of hard work to make any sort of salary.

Do you think a non-profit side hustle is right for you? Have you worked at a non-profit as your side hustle? Tell me about it in the comments!

Author: Carolyn

Carolyn Noe is the owner of Noe Ideas as well as the Founder & Executive Director of Super Heroines, Etc. It is her personal mission to help dreamers and do-gooders turn their fantastic ideas into implementable, goal-oriented non-profits and businesses.