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?


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

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.

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.