I’m going to share with you something that might not seem to match the work that I do for a living. But here goes:

When nonprofit pros come to me to discuss whether to stay in the sector or leave, oftentimes I tell them to move to the for-profit sector and then donate time and money back to the NPO sector.


At least 80-90% of these discussions have to do with money. Nonprofiteers are sick of being paid extremely low wages. They WANT to stay in the sector. They WANT to make their community and the world a better place. They WANT to be part of solutions that create better lives for those around them.

But when you can’t pay the bills…

Our Own Worst Enemy

I have ranted about the salary issue before but then last week happened.

More specifically, this job ad. Have a look.

But I beg you: Please make sure you’re not drinking or eating while reading.

Because when you get to the salary section, you’re gonna spit out whatever’s in your mouth.

Yes, it’s that bad. And yes, that was a job opening posted on LinkedIn.

Listen to nonprofit leaders who complain they have a difficult time recruiting new staff. Then when you wonder aloud why that might be, they won’t hit the nail on the head. They’ll have every excuse in the book BUT ridiculously low salaries.

This is how our sector shoots itself in the foot. And this isn’t a new phenomenon.

The notion that “working in the nonprofit sector demands certain sacrifices” or “you’re making the world a better place and that’s a greater reward than a high salary” is, pardon my French, bullshit.

GuideStar and others used low overhead to judge an organization’s efficacy. Many foundations refuse to award grants to a nonprofit whom they deem to have overhead that is “too high.”

And so to get that money, sector leaders feel the need to keep salaries at 25-33% lower than the for-profit sector.

As if that wasn’t enough, corona came and nonprofit leaders shot themselves in the other foot.

Please Come Back!

About one million nonprofit workers lost their jobs in the first year of corona. Organizational leaders slashed workers and salaries because that’s our sector’s automatic fallback when we sense there might be a downturn in giving.

Wrong way to go about it but hey, why try growth mode when poverty mindset has become the default?!

Now those same nonprofits are trying to hire people… and they’re finding it very difficult. The workers who were let go won’t come back for the same measly salary. They can find other gigs elsewhere and get paid a decent wage.

So what’s a nonprofit to do???

I know, I know. Offering a competitive wage isn’t the way we do things. Which means suddenly nonprofits are having a very hard time staffing open positions.


There are plenty of solutions out there to this issue. But until sector leaders take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that their decisions are what’s holding the sector back, nothing will change.

Fundraisers will move jobs every 12-18 months in order to up their salary even just a little. Younger people- looking at skyrocketing rental prices- won’t even bother to apply for open positions. Seasoned vets will take their expertise and knowledge and move to where the money is, the for-profit sector.

The sector as a whole loses because of this shortsightedness.

Who Is Most Affected

But we all know who suffers the most because of low salaries: The people we say we serve.

We can’t help them if we don’t have staff to do so.

We can’t help them if we turn our own employees into beneficiaries.

We can’t help them if our staff members are overworked, underpaid, exhausted and bitter.

But hey nonprofit leader, you do you. This blog post isn’t going to change how the sector deals with its staff. But after seeing the above job ad, maybe we need a sector wide reset on the issue of staffing and salaries.

Something that will actually make us all stronger, not weaker.

P.S. In a Facebook group I’m in for fundraisers, this happened: