Finding rewards in helping others

Despite low pay, the growth of nonprofit jobs continues to outstrip those in the for-profit sector in Maryland

August 24, 2005|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Patrick Stearn figures he can make a difference in his job.

Working for a Towson nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities, his duties include helping a client serve breakfast to the elderly. And while it may not make Stearn rich, that doesn't matter much to him.

"When you go into this field, you're not really going in for the money," he said. "I have other goals."

Nonprofit job growth in Maryland continues to eclipse growth in the for-profit sector, according to a recent study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. And with its large presence of hospital workers and other nonprofit health care employees, Maryland has a higher percentage of nonprofit jobs than the rest of the nation, figures suggest.

Maryland nonprofits added 4,300 jobs in 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available, the study says. With more than 228,000 nonprofit jobs in the state, the sector employs twice as many workers as Maryland's banking, finance and insurance industry, the study says. One of every 9 private-sector jobs in the state is nonprofit, according to the study released in July.

"This has been a consistent, long-term trend," said Henry Bogdan, director of public policy for the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, which was involved in the study.

Much of the growth has been in the Baltimore and Washington suburbs, which, combined, hold more than half of the state's nonprofit jobs.

The Abilities Network, the Towson nonprofit where Stearn works, can't hire employees fast enough. The organization has gone from 70 workers six years ago to nearly 170 today, said Lyn Elliott, the organization's director of human resources.

"We've been constantly recruiting," Elliott said.

In Maryland, nonprofit jobs accounted for 11.4 percent of all private-sector employment and 9.3 percent of total employment in 2003, said Lester Salamon, an author of the study and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies within the university's Institute for Policy Studies.

Nationwide, nonprofit jobs accounted for 8.2 percent of all private-sector jobs and 6.9 percent of total employment in 2002, the most recent year for which national figures are available, Salamon said, adding that the numbers are unlikely to have changed much from 2002 to 2003.

Baltimore accounted for 36 percent of Maryland's nonprofit jobs in 2003, according to the study.

"We all know that Baltimore has been losing jobs. ... It's been losing industrial jobs. The nonprofits stay," Salamon said. "This has been the record here. They've accounted for almost all of the job growth in the city of Baltimore, which is just extraordinary."

Patricia Caya spent years searching for the perfect job. A former Baltimore City employee, she wanted a job that would inspire her. Given the number of hours she spends at work each week, Caya wanted her time there to be meaningful.

In February, she took a part-time job as a communications and events coordinator at the Irvine Nature Center of Stevenson, a nonprofit environmental education organization serving the Baltimore metropolitan area.

"Passion runs it. You have to have it because the hours can be long and the work can be hard," Caya said. "At the end of the day, if you believe in what you're doing ... it's a good thing."

Many workers choose the nonprofit field for that very reason. They want to make a difference, to work for an organization with a purpose that they can stand behind.

"I think workers find a great deal of satisfaction with a sense that they're working someplace where the mission is to give something back to the community as opposed to returning something back to an investor," said Bogdan of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

The state's high concentration of nonprofit jobs is a result of growth in the service sector, Salamon said. Social services as well as services in health care, day care, nursing home care are in demand - all fields that have a significant presence in Maryland.

Maryland's biggest employer, the Johns Hopkins institutions, with 44,000 jobs, is a nonprofit as are many other major employers in the state, from universities to hospitals. And the hospital industry in Maryland is more prominent than in many other states, Salamon said.

While nonprofit jobs may not be known for high salaries, Salamon said they historically provide good benefits to workers.

An Internet job search of the Web sites for the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations and listed several Maryland jobs with health care benefits, and some with retirement benefits as well. Jobs that listed salaries had pay ranging from less than $20,000 up to $70,000.

More than 8 percent of the state's payroll went to nonprofit workers, the Hopkins study said. Maryland nonprofits paid a combined $8.6 billion in wages in 2003.

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