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Recently I was talking with an urban planner from Portland Development Commission, or PDC. He is in charge of getting more economic growth in the city of Portland, specifically in areas like Athletic apparel, Tech, and Manufacturing.

Because I am a nonprofit cheerleader, I asked him, “Why not nonprofits? Why not focus on helping them?”

He said something that only struck me later for its tremendous significance.

He said, “We don’t focus on nonprofits because they bring the median income in a region down. We focus on tech, manufacturing and athletic apparel as well as software because those fields bring up the median income in the region.”

Have you ever wondered why you just can’t seem to make ends meet, no matter how hard you work?

Well, don’t wonder about this anymore.

We are the most underpaid field. Proof below:

labor-stats

Maybe you knew that already.

But did you know within nonprofits women are STILL underpaid compared to men?

According to GuideStar’s 2014 white paper, female chief executives’ salaries at nonprofits in 2012 trailed that of their male counterparts by as much as 23% depending on the organization’s size.

It’s true.

WE are the ones holding ourselves back. I want you to understand this.

When we do not pay our people enough to live on, to save, to get out of debt, WE are the problem, not the solution.

We want a better world, but we have to model it for our communities.

The fact that an urban planner says, we cannot focus on nonprofits because they are bringing the median income down is like saying nonprofits actively hurt the people that work for them, by paying them too little.

nonprofit payscale

What happens when we pay our people too little?

What’s the consequence?

Nonprofit workers, us, our colleagues, don’t have enough money to buy a house, or a car.

We don’t have enough money to pay off their college debt.

We live on credit. And we stay stuck in penury.

As long as we keep working for nonprofits, for most of us, there is no way out.

This has to stop.

This must stop.

We are doing our missions a disservice by wasting money this way.

They call us wasteful. We ARE wasteful.

They call us inefficient. We ARE inefficient.

But not in the way that they say. We are wasteful and inefficient in the way we treat our best people. We cannot let this go on.

We have to do better not just for our missions, but for the people we work with, the staff. If we do not treat the staff well, with the courtesy of a salary that reflects their years of experience, and respecting their output, how can we ever accomplish our missions in the best way?

When you pay people too little, they leave!

And when they leave you have to start looking for another program or fundraising person all over again.

It’s wasteful, and it keeps our nonprofits stuck.

We are the ones accepting very small salaries. We are the ones who do not negotiate our salaries.

It’s time for this to stop. And it starts with you.

You can arm yourself to ask, to negotiate, and to get more compensation from your nonprofit job.