Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More on the Topic of Nonprofit Executive Compensation

A very thoughtful post on nonprofit executive compensation over at Philos Anthropos where it is pointed out that the median (as in, the half-way point) income for nonprofit executive directors is $42,000. Yikes. It's even worse for you museums out there: the median income for executive directors of arts and cultural organizations apparently is $31,000. In some areas of the country, that is barely enough to make ends meet.

But wait: an examination of the cited source data shows that these numbers are from 1998! What's more, there is no indication as to whether or not unpaid or volunteer executive directors were included in the study--that would certainly skew the median salary.

Still, the premise of the post validates a feeling that I have that for the most part, the vast number of small nonprofits do not have adequate executive compensation, in contrast with the relatively few nonprofits out there with ridiculously over-compensated executives. And I don't appear to be alone in this gut-feeling. According to a GuideStar poll, 54% of respondents did not think that nonprofit executives are compensated fairly. Of course, this ambiguously phrased statement could go in either direction, meaning that respondents could either feel that nonprofit executives were unfairly under- or over-compensated, but the GuideStar article does go on to state that about half of those respondents specified that they felt that many nonprofit executives were under-compensated.

Now, if that many people feel that the executives are under-compensated, what about those nonprofit staff members at the lower levels...?


Philos Anthropos said...

Allyson: thanks for the feedback on my post. I attempted to find more recent data, but time was short and I went with what I had.

While the absolute numbers have undoubtedly changed, the point remains - most nonprofit leaders, especially at smaller organizations, are underpaid.

It's a serious capacity issue for the sector - if we are about to witness an exodus of leadership, as has recently been reported, how do we attract (or retain) good people to run effective organizations?

Allyson Lazar said...

Agreed, especially because there is already plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that young professionals/recent grads are in fact being driven from the nonprofit sector for fear of not being able to make a living wage.