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Nonprofit Salaries: What Should I Earn?
A common myth about nonprofit organizations is that salaries are low and can't compare with the corporate world. Depending on your expectations, nonprofit salaries may be more competitive than you think.
In the nonprofit world, there is an implicit expectation that as much of an organization?s funding as possible should go directly to programs supporting the mission. However, more and more, funders and nonprofits alike recognize that an organization's effectiveness and ability to meet its mission is dependent upon the quality of its staff. They understand that, in order to attract and retain outstanding talent, organizations need to be competitive with job opportunities. Therefore, nonprofits are paying much more attention to the market rate for compensation. That being said, nonprofits do operate in a resource-constrained environment and need to be very conscientious about the compensation that they offer, both from a budget perspective and from an internal equity perspective.
What does this mean for you, the jobseeker? Salary negotiations are complicated and involve many variables. Some will be individual criteria, such as salary requirements and estimated market value, and some will be organizational criteria, such as budget restrictions, internal equity, and benefits packages. It is important that you understand your own criteria and that you also take into consideration the situation of your prospective employer. This article discusses some guidelines to consider when contemplating compensation negotiations with a nonprofit employer.
Compensation vs. Salary
Salary is just one piece of how employees are compensated. While salary is the actual amount of money an employee earns (financial compensation), total compensation is the full picture of how an organization demonstrates the value of its employees, including benefits and perks. When entering into any kind of compensation negotiations, it is important to consider your needs around both financial and non-financial compensation.
When determining your personal compensation requirements, consider what is important to you. Do you value 100% employer-paid medical benefits? Do you require a flexible work schedule that allows you to work at home? While compensation packages vary across nonprofit organizations, many nonprofits offer some or all of the following types of benefits as part of their comprehensive compensation packages:
Prioritize the compensation factors that are most important
to you and let that guide you when considering your salary
The first step in determining your salary requirements is to figure out your personal bottom line. Create a budget of your expenses -- such as housing, food, transportation, child care, entertainment, etc.?and determine what you need to earn each month.
Then, do your homework! Research benchmarks for similar positions at similar organizations. Remember that salary is determined by many factors, including an individual's education level, years of experience, and job function. For example, positions in nonprofit finance, operations, and management typically pay $50-75K for mid-to-senior roles, and $75-150K for executive roles.
Organizational factors, such as budget or location, also play a role. According to the most recent salary survey published by The Nonprofit Times, jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region offer the highest salaries, then the West, then the Central states. In general, organizations with larger budgets ($10 million and higher) tend to pay more than organizations with budgets under $10 million.
When developing your compensation requirements, remember that
you need to understand both your market value, as described
above, and the internal variables that impact an
organization's ability to pay (budget, location, internal
equity, funding cutbacks, etc.). It is
perfectly possible that you determine your market value to be
$60,000, for example, but the organization you really want to
work with is only able to pay you $50,000.
You need to consider how you prioritize compensation,
opportunity, work environment, reputation, etc.; many people
have accepted positions below their market rate because of
the amazing opportunities provided.
Discussing Compensation with a Potential
When discussing compensation with a potential employer,
remember that nonprofit employers value honesty and
communication and will anticipate that you will be ready to
be open about your salary requirements and other needs. It is
important for both sides to have a clear understanding of all
the factors involved, and in addition to coming prepared to
share your compensations needs, be sure that you have all the
information you need from the
organization. If the salary range has not
been openly stated, request this information directly.
Inquire about the other aspects of compensation. Ask how
salary is determined by the organization and where this
position falls in the range of salaries.
In general, there is not a lot of room for lengthy salary
negotiations with a nonprofit employer. Nonprofits pick a
range based on the factors described earlier and generally do
not have the ability to offer more. With this in mind, don't
attempt to "sell" yourself as being worth more than what they
can offer, and never lie about what you are willing to accept
to get through to the next stage of the hiring process.
Finally, no matter what, do not agree to a salary that will make you unhappy in the short or long-term. Find out the organization's policy on raises and bonuses in advance, and never accept a lower salary because you are expecting a salary adjustment down the road. If the organization cannot offer you what you need, and you cannot adjust your salary requirements, it is sometimes best to walk away from the opportunity. However, if you are able to be flexible with your salary requirements and consider other aspects of compensation, you may end up in a rewarding and personally fulfilling position.
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