Anyone out there wish they earned more? For all the lame jokes about nonprofit compensation being ridiculously low and in spite of the “scarcity mentality” that too many nonprofit professionals still embrace, it is actually possible for you to explore–yes, even negotiate–a better salary.
First, let’s look at some considerations if you are currently working in a position at a nonprofit.
1 — Know specifically what you want out of the negotiation. Do you want a particular promotion that includes more job responsibilities, or do you simply want more money and/or greater decision-making power for what you are already doing?
2 — If you think you should be paid more, you need to prove it. Determine your specific value to the organization by doing an in-depth personal job inventory. This is an objective analysis of your contribution to the organization as well as a realistic appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses.
3 — Compare your salary to what other people are paid in your industry and in other organizations like yours. Talk to friends and acquaintances who work for like-minded nonprofits of a similar size–i.e., your competitors.
4 — Consider your employer’s wants, needs, and concerns. Visualize a giant backboard with a line down the middle – your needs on one side and the organization’s needs on the other. Consider how you can better meet their specific needs and the organization’s mission.
5 — Focus on your value, not your need. Don’t discuss why you need the raise (high house payment, kids in college, etc.) You get a raise because you are worth it, not because you need the money.
6 — Regard asking for a raise as a measure of self-respect. Most bosses are not offended that you feel you should be better paid, and some give you points for it.
7 — Have a fallback plan. Define some secondary goals if your primary goal can’t be met. For example, if a raise just isn’t possible, negotiate for what you consider the next best thing that would make you more satisfied with your job, such as flex time or a one-time bonus.
Meanwhile, if you’re a final candidate for a new position rather than an existing employee asking for an increase, here are some thoughts.
1 — Don’t be too specific about how much money you want. Consider salary negotiations to be like a poker game. You would prefer that the other party make the first move. If you do have to state a figure, give a range that reflects market value. That gives both sides a little leeway for compromise.
2 – The most telling and confining aspect is the culture and current salary levels of the current employees at the nonprofit, and their established budget. Research what they are offering for other positions they are recruiting for, and consider their overall culture, before you decide on what to ask for.
3 – There are many salary surveys of the nonprofit sector, but in the end these numbers give us little guidance because they are a rough outline and cannot take into consideration the life cycle, health and history of a given nonprofit.
4 – It is OK to ask what the salary range is, but do not ask this question until they bring up the topic of what salary you are seeking. Asking this too early is a big turn off for a prospective employer that may not yet know if they are interested in you.
5 – Remember that your offer is probably going to be more about the nonprofit than it is about you. Most finalists for jobs concentrate too much on their own experience level and on the market. Though both of these items are most important to us as the job seeker, they are not the most influential aspect controlling nonprofit job salaries and offers.
6 – Never ask for more than 15% over your most recent salary unless the position carries significantly more responsibilities and you can justify it.
7 – Organizations are always trying balance the responsibilities of the position and the pay offered, but many times feel that they cannot offer what is required because to do so would also require them to increase salaries for everyone in the department or organization, which would put a large dent in their established budget.
8 – Too often, when it comes to the salary that a nonprofit organization decides to offer, they base it on their fixed budget and the other staff they already have in place. If the organization is currently paying under market for their current staff members, you should also expect your offer to be the same unless you bring significant additional established value or expertise.
Why wait for a salary negotiation to prepare a candid SWOT of yourself? List your professional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — and see if this exercise in reflection doesn’t give you some valuable insights. We predict you’ll be glad you did.
Reprinted with permission from Richard Male and Associates, www.richardmale.com, 303-355-2919.
Richard Male is an Affiliate Faculty member of the Global Leadership in Nonprofit program at Regis University with over 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector as a leader and teacher. He founded Richard Male Associates in 2001 to work with nonprofits throughout the United States and internationally, helping small to mid-sized organizations with organizational development, leadership and management issues, fundraising and financial management and public policy opportunities.