Vu Le remembers when he entered the nonprofit world. He had just earned his masters in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, and a reality hit him.
“I could not find a job because I had no experience,” Le said. It’s a familiar story in Washington state, home to roughly 2.5 public charities per 1,000 people.
One option was AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service corps placing young volunteers at nonprofit groups addressing poverty. However, while it offered training, mentorship and a nonprofit network with the VISTA volunteer’s year of service, AmeriCorps’ stipend currently hovers around $11,770 a year, in calibration with the federal poverty line.
“The challenge with that is only the people who have a safety net through their parents at home and with their families can enroll in AmeriCorps VISTA,” Le said.
Meanwhile, foundations and think tanks have also recognized a disparity between nonprofit staff and the people they serve. According to a 2012 National Urban Fellows report, just 8 percent of nonprofit executive directors in the U.S. were people of color. In contrast, nonprofits served communities that are 58 percent people of color, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation survey.