Have you been looking for a job a long time and just feel like giving up?

Are you getting to the age when you are not interested in accepting $28,000 a year anymore? Yeah, me neither.

Did you know that the way executive salaries have ballooned in the last twenty years, we should all be making $50,000 per year MINIMUM? Yeah, that’s so far from the current typical nonprofit wage as to see the curvature of the universe.

Have you ever wondered how to negotiate for a nonprofit salary?

It’s a little trickier than negotiating for a for-profit salary, because they can always pull this line on you, “HOW MUCH DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE MISSION IF YOU WANT TO GET PAID MORE” Etc.

But you DO need to get paid more. Because we are the lowest paid industry. Unless you’re working at a hospital or university. Then you’re probably getting paid a little better. But check out this chart.

Nonprofit Workers are UNDERPAID Yo

(this graph is from Blue Avocado)

See? I told you! Even government workers get paid more than you. So, think of your future, think of saving for retirement, think of paying off your student loans, and think of NOT EATING RAMEN EVERY NIGHT OKAY.

You have to do your research.
Here’s a study from Guidestar on what executives are getting paid. And if you look up the nonprofit you’re considering applying for a job for on Guidestar, you can see what the current ED makes and look at what they’ve made over the last two or three years as well. If you’re not gunning for an executive level job, then just maybe cut that salary in half and that’s probably what you’ll be making, or less.

You have to tread carefully, and know what to say. But WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Case Study:
Yesterday I had this conversation with my friend, let’s call her Donna.

Donna had been an executive director for over ten years at other organizations, and for two years, she has been looking for a new job. She did jobs on the side to get through, but her unemployment had run out and she was struggling.

I had an RSS feed set up for nonprofit jobs, and when I saw this executive director job, I jumped on it and sent it to her. Then she replied and said thank you! And then she asked me to check out the 990 form on Guidestar for her, and I did, and I said,

“Uh Oh, you are NOT going to make a high salary at this place, their budget is pretty small” and she said, “Well, that’s okay.”

Then she asked me to look at her her resume and cover letter. So I did, I rewrote them and reformatted them and sent them back to her. We had a couple of weeks of interviews, phone, skype, and in person, and I celebrated with her that she had got that far, trying to not expect more…

Then last week she called me and said, “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT” and I said, “REALLY” and she said “I GOT THE JOB!!!!” And we did a little victory dance over the phone, and she stopped by with flowers for me.

When she stopped by she explained to me what was going on at this nonprofit. It’s a small, rural nonprofit and they do have some government grants but they depend mainly on their yearly event (for which nothing has been done yet) and they are struggling. They need new case managers and everyone is trying to pull together.

When I asked her how the salary negotiations went, she told me she had to really fight to get $65,000.

“How did you do it?” I asked.

She replied,

“Here’s what happened. We were in this room, and the contract was there, and they were pushing me to sign it, and I looked at the bottom, and it only said $60,000. And I just sort of sat there and looked at it. And one person there said, “Is there something wrong?” And I said, “In all of the places this job was posted, the salary range was from $50,000 to $65,000.” And then someone else said, “Well, with your qualifications and the salary research we did for this region blah blah blah” but she didn’t have to listen to that person, because her experience is over 10 years of executive level experience, and so I said nothing and then the first person said, “Donna, what will it take to make you happy?” And I said, “I need to see that the board is behind me and believes that I can raise this money” and then the first person quickly took the contract back and crossed out $60,000 and wrote in $65,000″ and then I signed it and that was that.”

I actually clapped at this point and she smiled. She said, “It would have taken me 10 years to get a $5,000 increase in salary, and I knew I had to negotiate it now.”

Then she told me, “Between you and me, they are going to get half of that money back because I am going to buy two tickets for their gala and give $100 a month to this nonprofit, so that I can ask each board member to do the same.”

I thought that was really smart. So if you’re going up for an executive director job, you should build in some buffer that you will be donating to the nonprofit as well.

Are you inspired by this case study? Want to get a nonprofit job, FAST?

Check out our upcoming April 2017 Fundraising Career conference:

Fundraising Career Conference 2016


Here are some more resources on nonprofit salaries
Rosetta Thurman’s blog post on salary negotiation
Allison Jones’ blog post on salary negotiation
Blue Avocado’s Jan Masoka on how much executive director salaries should be