Archive for March, 2008

Getting the most out of your non-profit salary

Last week I attended the You Too Social Media Boot Camp at Kent State. If you didn’t go,youtoo.jpg you missed a really great day for both PR practitioners and Kent State.

While I was there, I ran into one of my “readers” (can you believe it?). We talked a bit about the blog and she asked if I’d ever talk about how to negotiate a salary at a non-profit. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it, but it is definitely a topic I need to learn more about myself as well.

In an effort to help at least one reader, here is what I’ve found.

It’s important to remember it’s not likely that you can “fix” your salary after you’re hired. Non-profits have few chances for promotion and raises are incremental and dependent on how the organization’s budget stands. Your quality of work and skill set don’t change when you move into a non-profit, so you should get what you’re worth. Here are some tips I found to get the most out of your non-profit salary.

Most importantly you have to do your research. You never want to go into a negotiationtre05144.jpg blind. There are three major categories you must have all the facts on before you are even offered a position. First, know your own needs. How much do you need to maintain your lifestyle or move up to a new stage? Are you willing to have a lower salary with better benefits? It is necessary for you to completely assess your financial situation.

Secondly, know the marketplace. What salaries are similar positions earning in the field? is a great place to begin this search and compare what people are making in the non-profit field throughout the country.

Finally, know the organization. What is its overall budget? What are other positions earning within the company? You can begin this type of research at


After research the most important tactic is to stall. You don’t want to bring salary up right away and if possible don’t talk about it at all in the first interview. If a potential employer asks you about your expected salary range, don’t give in too quickly. The Nonprofit Jobs Cooperative offers some great stalling examples for this situation.

Also, you should never accept a position on the spot. It’s best to consider it for at least 24 hours. The extra time will give you a chance to weigh the pros and cons and help give you an edge to push for what you know you’re worth.

Overall, you must do your homework and don’t back down without a fight. Remember, we’re worth it!


The downside: The negatives to working for a non-profit

This week reported results from the study “Ready to Lead?rtlcover.jpg Next Generation Leaders Speak Out.” The study found that non-profits will soon face a crisis in leadership. As top executives “gray,” non-profits have not stepped up to nurture young employees, causing talent to leave the sector by droves.

I said I’d write about the reality of working for a non-profit. Until now I’ve been pretty positive, but that article got me thinking. Although I enjoyed working for a non-profit, there were some headaches.

It isn’t a surprise that the majority of young non-profit employees feel underpaid, but below are my top four reasons I feel non-profit employees become dissatisfied.

1. It’s all about the money
Non-profits are just as obsessed with getting the almighty dollar, albeit in a slightlymoney_bag_with_dollar_sign.jpg different way than corporations. In non-profits, donors rule. If a donor donates a million dollars to start a chinchilla farm for your organization, who cares if that doesn’t fit with your mission, because—HELLO, it’s a MILLION DOLLARS. That example might be a bit extreme, but some of the lengths non-profits will go to cater to big donors is enough to make Donald Trump blush.

2. Shorthanded doesn’t mean you can do my job
Oftentimes, small non-profit staffs perform a lot of different duties and that’s great. But when a non-profit hires a professional people need to learn to LET GO.

Public relations is a profession. I was hired because I’m a trained professional, not because I make my family calendar on Microsoft Publisher.

3. Isn’t that great …
This one could just be in my head. When someone new asked me where I work, I’d say a non-profit. People inevitably say “Oh, isn’t that nice,” while their body language says another story.

People respond with reassuring stories of people they knew who worked for non-profits and turned out alright. It’s a lot like telling people you met your fiancé online, which coincidently I did. There is a bit of a stigma, whether conscious or not, for a professional at a non-profit.

4. Really, I worked all year for a ham?

ham.jpg The worst part of a non-profit is the cold, hard cash. My salary really wasn’t a problem; it was knowing there was no chance for promotion or significant raises no matter how hard I worked.

Holiday time was the worst. It was easy for my coworkers to get salty about their holiday ham when their friends at corporations were getting hundreds if not thousands of dollars in end-of-the-year bonuses. To top it off, you’re expected to donate too (without the special donor treatment.)

That sums up the worst of it all from my perspective. Hopefully, I haven’t scared everyone away because my intent was just to be honest. I still really enjoyed working at a non-profit and look forward to working for another one soon.

Don’t non-profit employees deserve a coffee break?

Were you unable to get your coffee fix this week? On Tuesday, all 135,000 Starbucksstarbucks-logo.gif locations across the United States closed for three hours. Don’t worry. There wasn’t a shortage of Frappuccinos. No, this break was essentially a three-hour employee coffee break—for training. (Take a look at the official press release for more details.)

Wow. Sure the coffee mega-giant gets a lot of guff in the press now and then. But I for one must say how refreshing it is to hear a company take time out, at rush hour I might add, to focus on its number one audience.

Too often it seems employers take their employees for grant it and it’s a real shame. As smile-guys.jpgone of my mentors, Davis Young, said regarding audiences, “Among equals, employees are always number one.” An engaged employee is a productive employee. An engaged, loyal employee is a company’s best asset.

All too often, non-profits fall into the rut of “our employees are lucky to work here.” They start to believe the non-profit propaganda that the good feeling you get from doing good is the ultimate reason employees work for them.

Get real! A segment of non-profit employees work for non-profits because they believe in the mission strongly, but a whole lot more work there for another reason. If you ignore those people, you’re going to have a problem.

I think there is a wealth of opportunities at non-profits for PR professionals to prove their worth by engaging employees. In circumstances with small budgets, indoctrinating a captive audience (i.e. employees) in your mission is critical. Between having mission evangelists or apathetic drones, which would you choose? Obviously mission evangelists.

When you have only one or two communications professionals on board it can be extremely difficult to keep a consistent, on-target message about your organization. Making sure employees not only know what to say but actually want to talk about your organization will lead to the holy grail of current PR—buzz.

Sure you may not have the fun gimmick of allowing their employees to create their own signature drink, but a day or even a few hours of listening to them will go along way. According to a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, appreciation, followed closely by respect, are the top characteristics needed to be happy at work. As PR professionals, we know that keeping the lines of communication open and honest is the best ways to start building both of these.


So take a long coffee break sometime soon. Non-profit employees work really hard. It’s about time they felt their organization was darn right lucky to have them too.