Negotiating Your Salary : Successful Nonprofits

Negotiating Your Salary

by goldenburggroup

Negotiating Your Salary

by goldenburggroup

by goldenburggroup

My husband and I were watching the Georgia Bulldogs take on Alabama in the NCAA College Football Championships, when my phone dinged.

I quickly read the text message from my good friend Jessica, who works as a social worker for a $5 million nonprofit in a mid-size city. She was seeking advice about renegotiating her salary, and I am always happy to offer advice!

Like many professionals in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors, she only negotiates salary every few years. For this reason, she doesn’t have much experience negotiating salary, is rusty from the last negotiation, and isn’t always comfortable advocating for herself.

About two weeks later, she negotiated a new salary that satisfied her financially and emotionally, and our text and email exchanges might be useful advice for readers in negotiating their own salaries.

Obviously, I have changed my friend’s name, as well as her city and organization.


Jessica: Hey. Jessica here. Negotiating salary at work, and it went horribly today. Would love your advice. Have any time to talk or text?

Dolph: Sorry just got this. We’re watching the national championship game tonight so lets text. Tell me more about the meeting to discuss comp.

Jessica: I work part time. I make $14/hour. Full time position was offered to me. Same job with a few more responsibilities. I currently carry caseload of 25 while full time people (there are 2) carry caseload of 35. Person I’m replacing started 5 years ago out of school at $30,000.

Jessica: Sooo

Jessica: They offered me $30,000. Said there is no room to go up.

Jessica: Today I said I wanted to talk compensation. And she said they’d give me Claris’ current salary. Great, I thought.

Dolph: And Claris makes $30k or more?

Jessica: Then at the end of the convo, she said – that won’t include her raises, bonuses, etc. Later sent me an email saying it’s $30,000. That’s a 47 cent an hour raise.

Jessica: Claris won’t tell me what she makes. But she told me to expect between 32 and 34.

Dolph: If you tell her you want to stay part time, is that an option or will they eliminate your position?

Jessica: I can stay part time.

Dolph: OK, so you have more leverage if they want you to go full time

Jessica: And that is what I was thinking of saying – if they can’t compensate me fairly.

Jessica: And I’m really good at what I do. Brag. Brag.

Dolph: Is the full-time position hourly (i.e., would you ever work over 40 hrs and get overtime)?

Jessica: No. It’s salary

Dolph: Um, I am NOT a lawyer and not providing legal advice but talk to a lawyer about that.

Jessica: OK

Dolph: From my perspective as an employer, that is not okay.

Jessica: Maybe I’m wrong.

Dolph: If you’re providing direct service you typically aren’t exempt (salary without overtime).

Dolph: You have to supervise a certain number of people and make over a certain amount.

Jessica: I’ll talk to my attorney friend about it.

Dolph: A lot of NP orgs don’t understand that, which makes them pretty poor employers.  End of rant about NP employers and back to your salary.

Dolph: Your leverage will never be higher now and you should absolutely advocate to get the highest salary you legally and ethically can.

Jessica: How do I know what that is?

Dolph: I call this “Get off the couch money”. Though we don’t say this, we all have to be paid enough to get off our comfortable couches.

Jessica: LOL

Jessica: True. I really like my Fridays free right now.

Dolph: And there are some good guideposts . . . the amount that Claris makes, for example, should be your floor.

Jessica: OK

Dolph: You can pull your orgs’ 990 and likely see what your exec dir. makes.

Dolph: But then it’s about making the case to the org

Jessica: Guidestar to get the 990?

Dolph: Yup. Or Pro Publica.

Jessica: Should I give her a number? What if she asks?

Dolph: I would tell them that you need until Friday or next Monday to consider the offer.

Jessica: She needs an answer now to put an ad out there. And I said yes. But that was before I saw the offer. Stupid me. I have not accepted in writing.

Dolph: So, let her know that you need a week to consider the offer in light of the pay and understand that she may want to go ahead and place an ad.

Jessica: OK

Dolph: I think this puts you in a position of more power. Essentially you’re saying “Maybe I will take the job but go ahead and put an ad and check out all the other candidates. I’ll still be the best candidate.

Jessica: I like that

Dolph: If she ask for a number, thank her for considering you and let her know that you are taking a week to consider all aspects of the position, including the compensation. Then you’ve got a full week to (a) figure out what you’re worth and (b) how much you want to make.

Dolph: Do you think a candidate better than you will apply?

Jessica: No

Dolph: Great. So, let your supervisor stew about it and review terrible resumes for a week. That only makes you more valuable.

Dolph: That’s what I call a win-win.

Jessica: Our org brings in $5.9 million per year. Our ED earns $90k.

Dolph: Do you have a sense of what your skill set is worth in Columbus?

Jessica: About $35,000. I don’t have a masters. But I’ve made a name for myself as a good social worker?

Dolph: Can I Push you on that?

Jessica: Sure.

Dolph: Why not $35k or $45k (serious question). Which jobs in Columbus make $45k?

Jessica: Masters level social work. Otherwise we don’t know. We hang out with poor people, Dolph.

Dolph: I bet there are people in human services without a grad degree making $45k.

Jessica: Maybe at the VA. University. My husband barely makes $50 after 5 years at the hospital. With a masters.

Jessica: And my degree is in journalism. I’ve snuck under the radar in human services. Not to discount my abilities.

Dolph: Why are you selling yourself short? Almost no one in human services has a degree in the field.

Jessica: My case notes are spectacular. In Columbus, social workers’ entry wages are $13 per hour (husband looked it up)

Dolph: Yeah, and that $13 per hour is for a 23-year-old kid with no experience. So, I don’t know Columbus, but in ATL and PHL people in human services without professional degrees often make $40s and $50s.

Jessica: Right. I’d be happy with $33k. Or more. Maybe more.

Dolph: And $13 an hour is $27,040 without overtime. So, you really believe your experience warrants only $6k more than someone with no experience?

Jessica: I like that. And that’s how I work. You have been incredibly helpful. Thank you. I will keep you posted about how things are going.

Dolph: Always my pleasure. Definitely spend this week researching what your skill set is worth locally.

Jessica: I will.

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