How much nonprofit employees are paid is determined by a complex array of internal and external factors. Nonprofits want to make sure their compensation standards are in line with peer nonprofit organizations, but also don’t want to lose talent to the higher paying but related sectors like government, philanthropy, education, and health care.
There’s also the issue of pay equity and fairness. How can nonprofits work to create a just society when our own internal policies still reflect historical inequalities?
These factors, combined with local and federal laws, can make compensation design complicated. So where do you start? A good place for organizations to begin is by researching comparable salaries. While there are factors that lead some employees to be compensated differently, straying too far from the benchmarks for similar organizations could lead to inequitable practices like paying women, people of color, immigrants, and people with disabilities lower than others in similar positions.
Organizations should set a benchmark for pay for all employees like the median salary for similarly sized organizations. This means 50% of employees in similar organizations are paid more. Then each year work to generate the revenue needed to move that benchmark up to 75%, for example, so that only 25% of employees in similar organizations are paid more.
Salary and Benefits Data
The following resources can help you make salary decisions in a way that employees feel is fair.
- King County Wage and Benefits Survey and searchable online 501 Compensation Tracker contain data from 233 nonprofits in King County. This information is free.
- Washington State: The Archbright's Wage & Compensation Survey (Non-Profit Special Report) The Nonprofit Report contains pay data collected from 163 self-identified nonprofit organizations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The cost of this report is $450.
- Open990 Executive Compensation Dataset. (Free)
- CANDID Executive Survey ($399)
- Many nonprofit state associations produce wage and benefit reports: state specific salary and benefits reports (produced by state associations of nonprofits in conjunction with Columbia Books)
- National nonprofit salary and benefits report (Columbia Books)
- Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies' 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report.