Social Work in the Nonprofit Space in North Carolina

Written by Jack Levinson

everybody hands in

The social work field is as expansive and far-reaching as it is thanks to the nonprofit sector. Here social workers can find opportunities in practically every area of specialization possible, engaging with the specific communities they would most like to work with.

If you’re looking for social work positions in any field, you’re likely to find many job opportunities at nonprofits.

These can be fantastic work experiences that can allow you to focus deeply on the causes that you care about.

What is a Nonprofit?

Nonprofits are independent organizations that are not oriented around pursuing financial gain. This allows them to focus their efforts exclusively on their social justice efforts, making them especially effective at creating change. Those who are looking to make an impact will find like-minded social workers in these organizations, which draw mission-driven individuals who want to do the very most they can in the field.

Nonprofit social work organizations often fill gaps in social services, addressing issues that may be overlooked or underfunded by government agencies or the private sector. This flexibility enables nonprofits to pioneer innovative solutions, advocate for social policies, and experiment with novel approaches to complex social problems.

Because they are neither beholden to the bureaucratic frameworks of public organizations nor the need to generate revenue that for-profit ventures face, nonprofits have the freedom to work in a different way. Many nonprofits work in close collaboration with the communities they serve to ensure that their offerings are as acutely refined and culturally responsive as possible. These efforts not only fix short-term problems but empower communities in the long term, creating deeper and more lasting change.

Types of Social Work Nonprofit

There are nonprofits in nearly every field of social work. These include:

  • Child Welfare Organizations
  • Mental Health and Counseling Services
  • Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Groups
  • Healthcare Access and Advocacy Organizations
  • Education and Youth Development Organizations
  • Community Development Nonprofits
  • Human Rights and Advocacy Groups
  • Disability Support Organizations
  • Environmental and Conservation Nonprofits
  • International Aid and Development Organizations
  • Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Centers
  • Elderly and Aging Support Services

This means that whatever focus area you have chosen within the social work field, you are likely to find numerous work opportunities at nonprofits.

Nonprofit Social Work Jobs

Because there are so many different types of social work nonprofit, there is a similarly vast number of roles and titles one can have as a nonprofit social worker.

If you don’t yet have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, nonprofit social work organizations can be a great place to get your feet wet in the field that most appeals to you. Entry-level roles often include positions such as social work assistants, case managers, and program coordinators.

If you do hold an MSW and your social work license, there are likely to be plenty of opportunities to get your first work experience as a full-fledged social worker. This is true if you are an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) performing counseling or other therapeutic services, as well as if you are an LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker) taking on coordination, logistics, programming, and administration.

If you’re a newly licensed social worker pursuing your first job in the field, it’s more than likely you’ll see opportunities at nonprofits to do the work you want to do.

Once you gain experience as a social worker, you will become qualified for leadership roles with a great deal of influence in the workings of their organization. These can include the following roles:

For social workers in the nonprofit sector, these leadership positions offer opportunities for career growth, and can be a motivating factor for those who wish to see their responsibilities – and salaries – increase over the course of their careers.

Spotlight: North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF)

Many nonprofits are small-scale, city-focused organizations, but there are some larger nonprofits that work to keep these grassroots, community-based organizations afloat. One of North Carolina’s top social work nonprofits is the North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF), a statewide foundation that facilitates charitable giving from philanthropists to the many worthy local nonprofits throughout the state.

How does this work? The foundation facilitates charitable giving by managing a diverse array of funds, each tailored to the unique interests and causes that donors wish to support. The NCCF acts as a guide and intermediary to help such philanthropists determine the best organizations to receive their donations so that their money will be used judiciously and effectively.

NCCF also can act as a facilitator between smaller nonprofit organizations with overlapping goals, building networks that can help empower and enrich the programming and supportive services of each one. By building bridges between separate organizations, NCCF helps ensure a unified effort across the state of North Carolina to address pressing societal problems.

If you’re interested in the macro side of social work, taking a broader view of social issues beyond their impact on specific individuals and families, working for an organization like NCCF may be the perfect job for you. Through the work of these organizations, we can better understand how certain issues impact communities across the state and how local nonprofits are responding to their needs.

volunteers gardening

Nonprofit Social Work Salary

Though nonprofits are, by definition and in name, not profit-generating organizations, social workers can nevertheless expect to earn comparable salaries at these organizations as they would working for other social work employers. (It’s always worth doing research, whether through job listings and asking other social workers you know to get insight into the salary for the specific type of position you are looking for.)

Because there are so many different types of nonprofit social work, it is not possible to find isolated salary data for nonprofit social workers exclusively. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports on social workers can provide useful approximations. (Note: this data pertains to the BLS’ nationwide survey findings, not those specific to the state of North Carolina, as these provide more detailed data by employer type.)

Child, family, and school social workers employed by religious organizations earn a mean annual salary of $71,570, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, those working at social advocacy organizations earn a mean annual salary of $47,920. Those hoping to rise in the ranks of their field have reason for optimism: the same report shows that the top 90th percentile of child, family, and school social workers earns $81,920 or more per year, meaning you can hope to achieve a comparable salary at a nonprofit by the time you earn a leadership position.

There are also many nonprofit health organizations, such as private clinics, at-home care services, specialty medical care providers, and more. The BLS reports that health care social workers working in home health care services earn a mean annual salary of $67,160. Those in outpatient care centers earn a similar mean salary of $66,850. Those in specialty hospitals earn a mean annual salary of $73,640. At the leadership level, healthcare social workers earn more; those in the 90th percentile of healthcare social workers take home $87,830 or more annually.

There are numerous nonprofit mental health and counseling organizations, some aimed at meeting the needs of those suffering from specific conditions and others designed to cater to specific populations. According to the BLS, these include outpatient care centers, which offer a mean annual salary of $58,670, and residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities, which offer $46,260 per year on average. Those in the 90th percentile can earn a great deal more than this, earning $97,660 or more per year. For those aspiring to leadership positions, this can be a great source of professional drive as you launch your career.

Because there are so many different social work nonprofits and in turn, so many different positions available for social workers of all types, it’s impossible to collect a comprehensive list of social work salaries at nonprofits. However, these can provide guidelines to help you estimate what you might make working for different types of employer.


How do I find social work nonprofit organizations near me?

There are many fantastic social work nonprofits in North Carolina, engaging with an extensive roster of communities and devoted to a wide variety of causes. You should not have trouble finding these as you’re looking into professional opportunities in your area, as nonprofits are needed to fill in the gaps left by social service organizations in cities and towns all over the country. You may also be connected to a nonprofit to complete your mandatory field work hours while in school or pursuing your LCSW certification. This can potentially introduce you to your first long-term employer, and if nothing else can introduce you to the world of social work, where you are likely to quickly learn of other organizations whose missions overlap with the one you are working for.

What are the advantages of working for a nonprofit organization?

Nonprofits are in a unique position within the social work profession. There are many public social service organizations – at the federal, state, and city level – offering support to those affected by any number of societal or personal issues. However, those organizations can be limited in their services and funding based on how the government has authorized the use of funding. Further, many of these services, sadly, are stretched very thin. For-profit organizations, meanwhile, often are forced to subordinate their larger mission so that they can generate the profit they need to stay open, distracting greatly from the cause at hand. Because they are freed from this pressure, nonprofits are able to make their missions their true focus, meaning social workers get to spend their careers focused on the work they care about doing, with fewer limits and competing interests than in other employment contexts.

If nonprofits are independent organizations, do they have the same education and licensing requirements as other social work employers?

Yes, nonprofits also require social workers to hold MSWs and North Carolina state licensing in order to practice. After all, though nonprofits are independent, they are still held to the same high standards of care and professionalism as other social work organizations. Indeed, while nonprofit social work organizations have more latitude to focus on their goals and values, they are not altogether unregulated. Your graduate degree and license, therefore, will be necessary in order to become a full-fledged social worker at a nonprofit.

Can social workers switch between nonprofit organizations and government or for-profit organizations?

Absolutely. Since all social workers are held to the same standards of education and licensing, working in a nonprofit will not render you ineligible to work at other types of organizations, nor vice versa. However, it is worth noting that nonprofits must follow particular guidelines that may inform your understanding of your social work discipline, meaning you will have to make some adjustments and learn about other processes if you move to another type of organization.