Nonprofit Salaries Don't Make the Cut

In the recent issue of Association BisNow, the Roundtable’s Interim President (and my boss) Audrey Alvarado, and the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region’s Terri Freeman (and former chair of the Roundtable), discuss salaries in the nonprofit sector. I appreciate their efforts to bring attention to this issue.

It is quite a disgrace to our sector that salaries continue to be an issue worth highlighting. And it’s about time donors and nonprofit leaders, including Boards and executive staff, realize that the sector cannot grow, attract talent, and become a recognized voice in our region and nation, if we fail to pay our employees adequate and comparable salaries. Even with a graduate degree in nonprofit management, I earn the lowest among my friends who work in the for profit sector (and many of whom hold only undergraduate degrees). There have been many times when I’ve considered following in their paths in an effort to earn a salary that affords me the ability to pay for my necessities, indulge in extracurricular activities, or even become a donor to one of the many nonprofits I admire.   

I have always been a strong proponent of higher salaries, and in fact I am notorious for presenting a copy of salary surveys during my annual reviews. But in all honesty, for many nonprofits, budgets dictate salary ranges and especially in this economic environment when nonprofit workers are on the verge of becoming clients of the very nonprofits they work for, donors must play a key role in ensuring comparable salaries for nonprofit workers.

Some funders request a list of employees with salaries $100,000 and over. Perhaps, consider asking which employees receive less than $50,000 – the answer will surprise you. We can no longer continue to work in return for life-changing missions. That doesn’t pay the bills.  


Nana Oppong is the Development Director at the Nonprofit Roundtable


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