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Mar 5, 2011 | Insights

A Closer Look 2010: Findings and Implications of the Nonprofit Compensation Survey

The climbing Dow Jones Indices and slow but steady fall in unemployment are signaling an improving economic outlook for the United States. 

However, a new publication by TSNE Valuing Our Nonprofit Workforce: A Closer Look suggests that workers at small to medium sized nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts and bordering communities are falling further behind in their economic well-being.

In A Closer Look, Lyn Freundlich, TSNE’ director of administration and human resources, examines the findings and implications of the TSNE nonprofit compensation survey. TSNE collaborated with nonprofit organizations and foundation partners from the region to survey nonprofits from Massachusetts and communities bordering the state. More than 30,000 people are employed by the 202 nonprofit nonprofits that completed the survey. Data collected was compiled on over 24,000 individual salaries and categorized into 131 job titles.

Findings include expected information such as the larger the organization, the larger the executive compensation. However, expected geographic differences in pay were not found. More revealing, the analysis by Freundlich found that more than half of all nonprofit positions pay less than $30,000 per year, and gender and racial disparities persist within the sector despite efforts to address them.

Further Findings

  • On average, male executive directors/CEOs earn significantly higher pay than their female counterparts. The average annual salary for all executive directors/CEOs in the sample is $107,256. For men, the average pay is $126,247, and for women, the average is $89,271. And while a majority (54%) are women, a relatively greater number of men are found in the executive directors/CEOs positions of the largest organizations.
  • While organizational size is a clear factor in executive and senior leader compensation, with larger organization paying higher salaries, it is less of a factor in for many mid-level positions.
  • There is less of a geographic pattern than one might think given the common wisdom that it costs more to live, and therefore salaries are higher, in Boston and the surrounding areas than elsewhere in the state.
  • Not surprisingly, some types of jobs are better compensated than others. Yet some generally held beliefs, suggesting that fundraising jobs pay far more than most, for instance, were not substantiated. On the other hand, nonprofit staff working in technology and finance tend to earn more than their peers in comparable jobs.
  • Although 15% of the workforce represented here earns $50,000 or more, 51% earn less than $28,000, meaning that more than half of nonprofit workers either need another source of income to meet the basic living needs standards in the Commonwealth, or they are not meeting them.
  • It is also noteworthy that 97% of the executive director positions in this study are held by white leaders. Of the 21 jobs with a mean of less than $28,000, people of color make up at least 30% of the workforce for 14 of them. Compare that to the 19 positions paying over $75,000. Only three of those jobs are staffed by at least 30% people of color.
  • Many participating nonprofits use more than one method to grant salary increases. Merit or performance pay was cited by 39%, cost of living by 35% and other practices by 10%.

Download A Closer Look