The truth about sector salaries isn’t dirty at all

publication date: Oct 24, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Have you ever suspected that everyone else doing your kind of job in other charities is paid better than you are? That the salary grass might be greener on the other side of the country? That the nonprofit you lead pays more than they need to, or less than they must to compete for good staff?Janet Gadeski photo

Or maybe you're asking for a raise, or about to negotiate the terms of a new job. How do you know what you're worth? Do you have the facts to convince your employer? Would you do better in another city? Or would that idyllic small town in which you'd like to raise your kids shrink your salary?

Wide-ranging survey reveals the facts

You can find answers to questions like those in a new survey report - one of the farthest-reaching, most carefully analyzed, highly-responded-to surveys I've seen. There's the usual disclaimer language about respondents' accuracy and limitations of the sample. You'd expect nothing less from an intellectually honest report. But the number of respondents and the care with which the authors approached the data speak for themselves.

I'm talking about the 2011 Canadian Nonprofit Sector Compensation and Benefits Study, prepared by the Association Resource Centre Inc. for Charity Village. Nearly 1,200 organizations participated, sharing data about 5,100 positions representing 16,000 employees.

You won't be surprised to hear that sector salaries are modest on the whole, with the average chief executive earning roughly $45 per hour. And those humble salaries haven't kept up with increases in inflation. But you may be surprised to hear where the raises are most likely to happen - at the mid-level positions, not the senior executives or support staff.

Predictably, average nonprofit salaries are highest in Toronto or Ottawa - unless you're at the chief executive level, when you're better off in Alberta. No one region reported the highest or lowest average cash compensation for all levels of staff.

Somehow, women still don't get the big jobs

Women, though they're the majority in the nonprofit sector, earn less than men doing comparable work. However, the study notes that "men are less likely than women to occupy positions in smaller organizations where the wages tend to be lower." Oddly, the trend reverses at the support staff level, where women earn 4% more than men.

It's encouraging to see that 79% of organizations offer health care benefits to at least one level of employee, and retirement benefits to roughly three-quarters of staff, though that only applies above the support level. While education benefits exist, the amounts generally cover at most one conference with economy travel and lodging - between $443 and $1,000 depending on the level of employee.

The study is packed with tables that slice and dice the data through every possible variable - organizational characteristics, location, benefits, demographics and more. The data and conclusions are most robust in Ontario, Alberta and BC, where most of the respondents live.

I hope that Charity Village is able to continue this extensive survey in the future. It offers benchmarks to the sector and powerful evidence that staff of legitimate charities are not riding the gravy train sometimes portrayed in sensationalist media reports.

The full study is available through Charity Village,

Contact Janet or follow her on Twitter.

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