You are here:

Putting People First

Building a stronger nonprofit sector together

The purpose of "Putting People First" is to build a stronger and more effective nonprofit sector – both within and outside King County, WA – so organizations can be better equipped to serve our communities. This project is a result of a partnership between 501 Commons and the King County Veterans, Seniors & Human Services Levy. We share a common interest in discovering data-driven solutions to chronic under-investment in the people who work in our sector.

Overall workforce shortages make it easy for people to find a new job. Inflation and rising housing and childcare costs are forcing people to leave jobs and teams they love. Community-based nonprofits often lose talented and experienced team members to the larger and better resourced parts of the nonprofit sector, especially unionized workplaces in government, education, and health care. 

The nonprofit sector is ill-equipped to deal with the rising salary and benefit expectations of workers. We are, however, well equipped to attract workers looking for jobs that align with their values. We need to catalyze our partner sectors—business, government, and philanthropy—to help us put people first by increasing their investments and changing their contracting and grant-making processes in ways that would allow us to improve nonprofit wages and benefits.

From February to June 2023, 501 Commons administered two ambitious surveys to collect data on wage and compensation practices, employee satisfaction, and the factors that lead to a great work environment. This project was first launched in 2021. The 2023 reports are now available to download:

  • Wage & Benefits Survey Report: A critical challenge facing nonprofit organizations is attracting, recruiting, and retaining well-qualified professional and support staff. The purpose of this report is to help our sector offer competitive compensation, attractive benefits packages, and equitable policies. Accurate and comprehensive data on salaries and benefits in the nonprofit field will help organizations evaluate their own compensation and benefits practices and guide these policies moving forward.

    Visit the online 501 Compensation Tracker to easily compare compensation data from several job titles (if you are outside King County, stay tuned, we will be providing geographic adjusters that you can use to reflect wages in your community).

  • Employee Engagement Survey Report: The purpose of the survey is to identify both the wage and non-wage factors that are linked to high employee engagement, attracting and retaining staff, and producing strong client services. The results of this survey, along with the wage survey, can provide King County nonprofits with low-cost ways to improve employee satisfaction and lower the risk of turnover.

"Putting People First" is a call-to-action

For funders (including government, foundations, and individual donors), it means supporting the full cost of services provided by nonprofits, including wages and benefits that are comparable to those offered by related fields like government, philanthropy, health care, and education. Contracting for complex human services, housing, and other programs should follow the approaches government uses in procurement of services from businesses where government expects to pay (on-time) the full cost of the service - including a margin!
For nonprofit organizations, it means working to generate enough revenue to fairly compensate your hard-working employees and avoid practices that attempt to pay employees the lowest amount possible to conserve program resources. This behavior perpetuates discriminatory pay for people of color, people not born in the U.S., people living with a disability, women, and others.
Collective Action
It is likely that efforts to improve pay in our sector are best undertaken in coalition with other nonprofits. Collectively the sector needs to challenge contracting and grant-making practices that require employees to be involuntary donors to their organization. Similarly, nonprofits need to stop telling donors that 100% of their donation will be used for direct services costs. Program administration and organizational overhead costs are necessary in order to create services and the sector should stop hiding that reality.
The goal is that the findings presented in this project will help us build a future where the people who carry out the important work of building and sustaining our communities feel supported and empowered to reach further heights in their nonprofit careers.

501 Compensation Tracker

Nonprofits and people looking for a job in the nonprofits can search and directly compare wage data for 175 nonprofit job titles in King County, WA. The information reflects salary numbers collected from February through June 2023 from 235 responding organizations.

Explore King County nonprofit salaries

2023 King County Nonprofit Wage & Benefits Report

The 2023 King County Nonprofit Wage & Benefits Report provides information on more than 14,000 employees in 175 jobs at 235 organizations located in King County or serving King County residents. Download the report today!

Access the report

2023 King County Employee Engagement Report

Hear the voice of 1,233 nonprofit employees regarding their job, supervisor, workplace culture, compensation and more. While overall job satisfaction was high, there are lots of opportunities to improve job satisfaction, employee well-being and engagement, and human resource practices.

Listen to the voices of workers

Information on Human Resources

Visit our collection of human resources tools and preferred practices to help you develop and engage your team members. Resources include recruiting practices, compensation and benefits, and preventing sexual harassment. Need hands on help? Our Human Resource Team is here for you!

Read more

Learning Connections Catalog and Career Resources

Browse our catalog to find leadership programs, nonprofit degree options, training, and other professional development resources across the Pacific Northwest, as well as resources on finding a job, leadership development strategies, and more.

Access leadership resources

Attend our informative webinar on Feb. 6

Want to go further into the results of the two Putting People First survey reports? Register for Enhancing Staff Retention Using the 2023 King County Employment Surveys on Tuesday, Feb. 6 (noon to 1:30 p.m. PST via Zoom) to hear Nancy Long dive into the results and discuss how to address the challenges facing the sector.