Negotiating Your Salary- The Approach To Nonprofit Salary Negotiation

When negotiating your salary, it is first important to consider where you are applying. When it comes to salary negotiation most finalists (for jobs) concentrate too much on the market, and their own experience level.

Negotiating Your Salary- The Approach To Nonprofit Salary Negotiation

Nonprofit Salaries and Nonprofit Salary Negotiation Advice – The Overall Approach 

When negotiating your salary, it is first important to consider where you are applying. When it comes to nonprofit salary negotiation most finalists (for jobs) concentrate too much on the market and their own experience level. Though both of these items are most important to us (as the job seeker), they are not the most influential aspect of controlling nonprofit job salaries and offers. The most telling and confining aspect is the culture and current salary levels of the current employees at the foundation or nonprofit, and their established budget. A good step in making the best decision on the best salary to ask for is to consider what they are offering for other positions they are recruiting for, and consider their overall culture before you decide on a number.

Nine times out of ten, when it comes to the salary that a nonprofit organization decides to offer, they base it on the realistic span they can offer for the position as it relates to (1) their budget for the position and (2) the other positions and staff they already have in place. So, 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 to the organization.

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.

There are many useful salary surveys of the nonprofit sector that exist, but in the end, these numbers give us very little guidance because they are a rough outline. It is highly suggested to research the position and job title you are applying for. Guidestar and The Nonprofit Times both produce decent salary surveys.

Salary History and Nonprofit Salary Negotiation

It is also important to keep in mind that in many states in the United States, it is now illegal for employers to ask you what your past salary is. Instead, they can only ask what you are seeking and or desiring in your next position. It also can be required for the employer to communicate the range for the hire, if you ask after the interview has taken place (as long as you are still in consideration). How these rules apply to you, differ greatly depending on which state you live and are applying. So be prepared and do your homework to understands how this affects you. These rules do not apply if you are already employed, and your current employer is asking your salary history. Your current employer can absolutely ask you have you have made in the past, as the law is only directed to protect candidates who are finding work for the first time/their entry working at an employer.

Here are some rules to follow when figuring out what salary to ask for:

(1) What was your last salary? Never ask for more than 15% more than this number unless the position caries significantly more responsibilities and you can justify it.

(2) If you were paid a competitive (higher than average) wage in your past position you may not find it again in the job that you love in the nonprofit sector.

(3) Always say you are flexible. Giving a hard-line number can make you look like you do not want the job, and is a red flag many times for hiring decision-makers. Most nonprofit employers will look at the entire package of what they are offering you to meet your salary expectations. This can include:

  • Medical, dental, vision (Individual and or family)
  • Life insurance
  • Pension (These exists at universities and some unions but are becoming rarer)
  • Retirement plan 403b (nonprofit do not have 401k’s; they are called a 403b)
  • Flexible spending
  • PTO; Vacation and Holidays
  • Telecommute
  • Working hours
  • Disability (long and short term)
  • Continuing Education
  • Additional health (gym, alternative care)
  • Free lunches, events conferences
  • Other perks

Nonprofits provide a much more comprehensive benefits package than traditional corporate employers, so you will need to look at the overall package when deciding what level base salary to ask for or accept.  Conversely, nonprofits will meet your salary expectations by looking at the overall package they are offering you. So, it is best proactive to be clear what exact base you require to take the role, in addition to their benefits plan. At all times you will wish to let them know how passionate you are about the organization, and also flexible depending on the offer. Showing that money is not your number one motivator, also communicates to the nonprofit employer that you are fully passionate about the work and their mission.

(4) It is OK to ask what the salary range is. You may need to politely ask in order to know if your specific salary needs are realistic. Never 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) After you give the number explain why you need it, but just briefly. Here is an example of a good way to describe your salary needs: “In my last position I made $44,000 plus benefits as the Office Coordinator. Because I will now be working as an Executive Assistant, I am hoping to gain a base salary of $52,000 to $57,000 to meet living expenses. Of course, I am also flexible and open to negotiations depending upon the exact offered position.” This example also works very well for higher-level positions.  First, establish your value by telling them how much you made in the past, and then professionally tell them what your expectations are. Make sure the salary you suggest is not too far out of their goal salary span.

(6) The final guideline to remember in the art of nonprofit Salary Negotiation is to never ask for too much. I have seen this happen many times, and it can backfire. Once you ask for too much, there is no way to later accept 20% less. In the view of the organization and hiring decision-maker – the jobseeker will really only be content with the salary they suggest the first time around. If you later say that you would take much less, it will cause them to suspect that if they hired you at the lower salary you would not be content in your position, and would eventually end up leaving. So, do your research, suggest a number that is realistic, and be flexible. In the end, if they make you an offer, most of the time it will be made within five percent of the lowest number that you suggest. The bottom line is to not be greedy because it’s a sure-fire path to not receiving that job offer at all.

Please note that Foundation List can not provide legal advice as to your employment or prospective employment.  Please seek outside counsel for any situation affecting your current employment or prospective employment. This information is free information that has been observed by our nonprofit search professionals as best practices. Please consult outside help to learn if these steps are right for you. 

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