Posted by: Nathaniel | July 3, 2008

Continuing the conversation on the Question of the Week: Should nonprofit salaries mirror those of the private sector?

Great discussion in progress on our Question of the Week: Should nonprofit salaries for middle and upper management mirror those in the for-profit sector?

We’ve had great some great comments so far and want more people to jump into the conversation. Here’s my recap of the comments:

Thanks everyone for your responses. I think this is a fascinating and really important conversation. Pragzz, your experience from the trenches sounds reflective of a huge number of my friends. Jon ( for those who don’t know!), your sense that people get into the industry with a time-frame that’s too long is interesting. Do you people get in with this mindset or is there sort of a “mission creep” or “i want to keep my job and that means my nonprofit needs to keep existing” effect?

Finally, Mas (by the way, great to hear from you man) and Tom, I think your posts are dead on. One of the things that I’d like to see more of is investment in the professional development of staffers, so that it makes nonprofit employees more capable and confident. The confidence that comes from knowing you have marketable skills would, I believe, make it a lot easier to invest more deeply in a fulfilling but less financially rewarding job.

What do you guys think are the top three things nonprofits could do to better recruit and retain quality employees?

Click here to join the conversation.



  1. Thank you for your encouraging words! You’ve got an awesome blog here. I’ve been searching everywhere for socially-minded bloggers. The only reason I could ever justify venturing into the MBA world is if I can marry my passion for social justice while I’m there. Please keep up the amazing work! This is inspiring!

    BTW: Nonprofits salaries should definitely be competitive (rather than scrapings of what’s left over after program expenditures). We do amazing work and yet, our efforts do not receive nearly the same level of compensation as our counterparts in the corporate world. As such, non-profits would be wise in investing their funds in productive overheard costs such compensation for top-level management who have a track record of proven results. In the long run, you will end up retaining the brightest individuals who will be able to measure your org’s social return on investment through successful accountability reports which will in turn generate future donors.

    By the same token, those who are in charge of your org’s programs should also receive a competitive compensation; I don’t think holding the power of the purse necessarily means you’re doing more work, thus, you should be paid more. I believe that work at all levels is equally commendable. We just want to be able to live, own a home one day, save for retirement and pay for our gas to work. There is considerable value in the social sector, so let’s put our money where it belongs!

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