Social Workers & Nonprofits in California

Written by Kim Borwick

nonprofits volunteers in meeting

Opportunities for nonprofit social work jobs abound in the Golden State. According to data from Statista, In 2021, California had the most registered nonprofit organizations in the United States, with roughly 190,230 organizations.

Social workers are in high demand in 501(c)(3) and social welfare organizations throughout the state. Impact-driven nonprofits need talented, productive social work professionals who share their missions and have experience with the complex psychosocial issues that Californians face every day.

What Does a Nonprofit Social Worker Do?

The list of responsibilities assigned to nonprofit social workers is extensive, and titles for social work professionals in this sector range from Clinical Sr. Manager (Licensed Clinical Supervisor) to Child & Family Specialist to Wraparound Facilitator.

The 2023 State of the Nonprofit Sector report noted that the human services category of nonprofit organizations was the most common area for nonprofits across the country that year. These agencies address food insecurity, homelessness, child welfare, domestic violence, and a variety of other pressing social issues.

Health organizations were the third most prominent nonprofit entities in the country, assisting with family planning, mental health, addiction treatment, and other health care groups.

A search for “nonprofit social work jobs” in the California area returns a multitude of job opportunities with responsibilities that include (sourced from posted social work nonprofit job openings in California):

You can find full-time, part-time, and temporary positions with these organizations, and roles for social workers and LCSWs range from entry-level to leadership positions with competitive salaries for all levels.

For example, a job listed on the California Association for Nonprofits website, CalNonprofits, which aggregates social work job posts in California, included a Director of Programs position with Cancer Support Community San Francisco Bay Area that was responsible for leadership, program administration, and clinical duties. Social workers eligible for the role were licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), and the salary range was between $125,000 and $160,000.

California Nonprofit Social Worker Salary

California salaries in the nonprofit sector are the highest in the nation. According to ZipRecruiter, seven of the 10 cities that offer nonprofit salaries that are higher than the national average — $18.54 an hour, or $38,563 annually — are located in California.

What are Top 10 Highest Paying Cities for Nonprofit Jobs?

Many organizations also offer sign-on bonuses and other financial incentives, and when you factor in the flexibility, diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI), advancement opportunities, and workplace culture of these organizations, nonprofit roles for social workers can be quite appealing.

Nonprofit organizations offer the same benefits as the private sector offers, including:

Positions posted to CalNonprofits, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and job boards such as Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter, and Glassdoor included opportunities with award-winning and nationally recognized organizations and highly respected agencies, such as:

These are just a few of the many opportunities with social work nonprofit organizations near you in the Golden State.

Social Work Nonprofit Organizations in California

From homelessness and domestic violence to human and civil rights for immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with mental health and substance use disorders, California’s network of nonprofit organizations provides social services throughout the state and employs many of the region’s roughly 330,000 community and social service workers.

The IRS categorize charities and nonprofits as exempt organizations that include charitable organizations (501(c)(3)), churches and religious organizations, private foundations, political organizations, and other entities that meet certain requirements, including social welfare agencies, civic leagues, social clubs, labor organizations, and business leagues.

Social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4) in the tax code “must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. The earnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

Thus, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations are tax-exempt and no one with a personal interest in the organization can receive a portion of the net income or use the organization’s assets for personal gain. Furthermore, the IRS specifically states that promotion of social welfare does not include participation in political campaigns. 

Nonprofits in California host hiring events, participate as Public Service Loan Forgiveness certified employers, assist with relocation, provide professional development opportunities, and offer promotions and growth for social work professionals as they advance their careers in the nonprofit space.

Examples of Nonprofit Organizations that Employ Social Workers in California

Homelessness

Health Care

doctor with kids in aid camp

Mental Health Treatment

Substance Abuse Treatment

Immigrants

LGBTQ Communities

General Social Services

Whatever your career goals or area of specialization as a social work practitioner, California’s nonprofit sector offers you the chance to realize your full potential in the field with the salary, benefits, and workplace culture to meet your financial needs while satisfying your personal values and nourishing your soul.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for child, family, and school social workers, healthcare social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and social workers (all other) are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2023.


Discover more about other social work specializations in California.