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Negotiating Non Profit Job Salaries

by Karen Alphonse, Executive Consultant,

Recent clients have asked many questions about salary related topics. How is it most tactful to broach these sensitive issues? When is it appropriate to raise questions about salary? What do you say? How can you prepare to answer questions about your compensation requirements?

Traditional wisdom has it that you should avoid salary discussions until the very last stages of negotiation. This rests on the theory that your prospective employer operates in good faith, that he or she will at least meet that market and that the offer will honor your experience and credentials. However, this is not always the case. Even assuming good faith, the pressures of limited budgets, an uncertain economy or shifting organizational priorities may affect how and when salary issues may arise.

Increasingly, employers seem to require a salary history and compensation requirements in the initial letter of application. Typically, such employers expect salary information to be submitted at the beginning to the employment process, not at the end, during offer negotiations. Some employers may use salary requirements as a basis to screen out otherwise qualified candidates early in the search process. Usually, economics play a role in this timing. An employer with a clear-cut budget may, and rightly so, want to limit his or her review to affordable candidates. If pressed to make an early statement about salary requirements, how should a candidate present his or her needs?

As you present a salary bid, you are balancing a number of complex factors. If you present too low of a range, there is real concern that you may be giving off signals that, in the past, you have been willing to accept less than a fair wage for your efforts. If you bid too high, you may be perceived as lacking in judgment, unrealistic or even greedy. The economics of the organizations you hope to join will also be a factor to weigh as you make your bid. Additionally, psychologists tell us that multiple self-esteem issues can become embedded in the number you quote. There is data to suggest, for example, the women executives routinely undersell their experience and credentials. Others, have conclude that passive personalities, of both genders, may be inclined to "negotiate up" less frequently. Reluctant negotiators are also more likely to accept their prospective employer's first offer. Age, experience and credentials are independent, critical factors influencing compensation. Given all of these variables, you may be left wondering, "What is the most effective way to approach making a winning bid?"

Research and homework seem to yield the best answers. If you know someone who works at the organization you are investigating, it may be worth your while to get some general ideas about how employees have been compensated in the past. This way you can test your "range" against the company's actual operating patterns. On the other hand, if you do not have a personal contact, you may want to download the organization's annual report or at least visit it's website to figure out how it has managed compensation issues in the past. It will also give you clues as to what the organization has done, compared to other similar enterprises. This will give you a sense of how it compensates its senior leaders. There are also numerous sites on the Web where you may compare earnings of executives in key sector, including the not-for-profit sector. and the Nonprofit Times provide useful salary data. You should be careful to compare your organization with others of similar size, mission and resources. Some large non-profits compensate their leaders as well as many private companies do. Others, particularly smaller start-up operations, do not begin to meet private sector salaries. These more modest operations may rely heavily on volunteer input to keep operations afloat. It is crucial to know where your organization fits on the industry spectrum. This knowledge allows you to assess, in turn, where your salary should lie.

Be sure that you go to the negotiating table armed with up-to-date data about the organization you are ready to join. Know your own limits and how much you will need to maintain or exceed your current standard-of-living. On its part, the organization making the offer knows its capacity to compensate you fully and fairly. In the end, it is the organization that has allocated sufficient resources to acquire your skills that should have the benefit of your expertise.

Our in-house consultants can assist you with negotiating your new salary. Contact at for more information.

by Karen Alphonse, Executive Consultant,

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