Paying Nonprofit Executive Directors

Blue Avocado, a fantastic nonprofit e-newsletter, published a great article about salaries of nonprofit executive directors earlier this week.

One of the commenters to this Blue Avocado article (he/she was anonymous so I can’t link to his/her blog) made several points I agreed with and several I didn’t.  I figured I would post the text of my reply comment in my own blog, adding the line breaks and bold fonts I would’ve loved to put in the original posting.

I respect your frustration, especially in a time of tight budgets and program cuts. I also completely agree that comparing salaries without taking cost of living into account is absurd. Thanks for making that point.

I disagree with your comparison of execs who accept adequate (or even generous) compensation to execs who “care;” it implies that well-paid execs do not care. This mutually exclusive relationship is not accurate. Even the most devoted execs can have medical expenses, family expenses, student loans, and other reasons to require competitive compensation.

I also disagree that it’s automatically stupid to have a six-figure-earning exec because there is so much need right now.
1) There’s always need, even in economic booms. Infrastructure is always necessary for meeting needs effectively and efficiently. An exec is part of infrastructure.
2) I agree that income disparity is horrible. People are taking home huge yearly salaries while nonprofits have to cut programs and close their doors. My question is this: why would we target nonprofit execs to give up their professional compensation but be perfectly happy to let other (mostly better-paid) execs take it all home? Why are we only Robin Hood within nonprofits and not across sectors?

-Emily

For full context, please check out the article as well as the comments (especially the one I replied to).

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Volunteers and Employees

Other teacher: I love teaching here, but the lack of benefits is really hard.

Me: I’m really new, so I’m still just so happy to earn money to do a job I’d do as a volunteer.

Thoughts:
1. I’m really lucky to enjoy my job so much.
2. Many nonprofit jobs have historically been unpaid, and many still work closely with unpaid volunteers. Maybe that shift from volunteer to employee is what’s holding the sector back from competitive compensation packages in the present. Maybe we’re collectively still sort of wondering if we should be paid at all.

Creating Change (By Our Powers Combined)

Thanks to Ben at Island94.org for getting me to read Dan Pallotta at Harvard Business.

Memory Fragments by lovefibre on Flickr
Memory Fragments by lovefibre on Flickr

Pallotta argues here that since our problems (i.e. hunger) are massive and systemic, the only way for nonprofits to stand a chance of winning against them is to consolidate efforts into one unified effort to eradicate the problem within a stated time frame.  He advocates setting an audacious, specific goal and restructuring our sector around it so that it’s not about the little nonprofit’s mission, but about all of us reaching the goal.  Only this larger vision will shift us away from the “fragmentation and redundancy” we’re currently facing.

I see what he means.

However, I’m coming from a bias against his argument because I don’t like or trust large organizations.  I wrote about it here about a year ago.  To me, they turn humans into numbers and the momentum they build up for the sake of efficiency is actually slow to change with the times.  That being said, when a billion people are starving in a world with plenty of food, maybe it’s ok to focus on efficiency at the expense of personability and adaptability.

Ok, so let’s say Pallotta convinced me that bigger is better and that the process of consolidating wouldn’t completely derail our work for decades.  I still have a couple major questions about how this would play out, and I’m actually quite interested in the answers.

1) How would the consolidated nonprofit system relate to current systems?

Would we be creating a giant system for the sake of efficiency to clean up after the other system? That does not seem efficient to me.

Or will this second giant system fundamentally change the first one?  How will that not turn into a political mire?  And what if it does succeed?  How could something that big phase itself out or radically change itself to pursue a different goal?  Are there any precedents for that actually happening?

2) How is this different?

How would this plan produce an organization whose impact is different from the United Nations and the World Health Organization – benevolent organizations that provide some leadership to their fragmented membership?

What about the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – organizations that arguably crippled many countries’ development when they tried to make large-scale change for the better?

And from a national standpoint, how would it differ from the USA’s failed War on Drugs?

I’m not convinced from this one article that Pallotta has hit upon The Answer, but it was a great read that’s provided a ton of food for thought.

One-Page Strategic Plan!

My organization has a one-page strategic plan, and it’s pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

Go us!

Seriously, I’ve been a skeptic of the net value of a strategic plan given the amount of time put into writing it and the likelihood of it being used. With this one, though? Consider me on board!

Uncrossed Funding Streams

Have you ever noticed how many programs out there serve only one age group?

Day 219/365 by Great Beyond on Flickr
Day 219/365 by Great Beyond on Flickr

Even when we can manage to combine some form of childcare with adult classes, it’s often not free and basically never addresses the needs older children.

This isn’t because we believe that youth and teens are unimportant, or that our students have no children, or that it’s easy for a family to be in four different places for four different services all at the same time.  It’s because the funding is dictating the structure of our services, and not the actual need.

That being said, without funding we wouldn’t have any services.

Solutions?

The Super-Effective Volunteer

As the coordinator of an all-volunteer teaching staff, a large and fantastic part of my job is volunteer support.   I don’t know how I ended up with such great people, and I hope they stay forever.  I write this in hopes that more volunteers will contribute the way mine do.

I’d like to put it out there for whomever is listening that the most effective volunteers are not the ones who arrive with their own agenda.

Super Boy by Łéł†Āķ Mă3ý on Flickr
Super Boy by Łéł†Āķ Mă3ý on Flickr

Super-effective volunteers have their eyes and ears open to the needs of the organization. When something comes up and they have the ability to help with it, they speak up and dive in.

And you know, any help is help. Coming in and telling me exactly what you’d like to do is something, and I’m as grateful as I should be and I try hard to work with you.

But take a step back and think how amazing it is when a program realizes it needs something, asks for someone to do it… and then someone does it.

And now think about how well a volunteer gets to know the organization by helping where it’s needed.  Think what a great position this puts the volunteer in to make suggestions, push for change, and bring a relevant and mutually beneficial to-do list to the table.

Are you that kind of volunteer?

Lessons from Clothing Donations

notice the restless bag of clothes by revecca on Flickr
'notice the restless bag of clothes' by revecca on Flickr

I have had bags of clothes sitting in my apartment waiting for me to donate them for something like a year. Maybe longer. And last week, I finally donated them.

It was one of those unfortunate tasks that was neither important nor urgent but that would take more than a few minutes.  So I just sort of stopped seeing the bags of clothes being slowly shredded by my cats.  When I did occasionally notice them, it was never a good time to dive into such a big project (?) so I left them for “later.”

Lessons learned:

The factor that started me tackling this silly little project with its surprisingly large impact on my living space was a conversation that became a plan.  Those things are powerful.