Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Laws of Attraction

The Chronicle of Philanthropy posted a good article covering a meeting of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network - a national organization that addresses a broader version of what U^P seeks to address.

In the article, Paul Schmitz, chief executive of Public Allies, a charity with headquarters in Milwaukee that trains young people for public service, makes this comment about salary gaps between for the for-profit and non-profit sectors:

“Most business is small business. And really, when you compare apples to apples, the average nonprofit to businesses the same size, the nonprofits pay well,” he said. “We don’t compare ourselves to the $13-million manufacturing company down the block, so we have this entitlement belief that we should be paid like Goldman Sachs.”
Mr. Schmitz is comparing apples to oranges. The people with the talent, intensity, courage, and creativity to become tomorrow's nonprofit leaders aren't deciding between working for your NPO and a local printing store. They're deciding to work for you or Bill Gates, or Google, or Apple, or start their own film production company or graphic imaging shop with one of their well-heeled peers.

In the case of arts professionals, the salary divisions can be particularly piquant. If you're looking for work in social services or health care, maybe there aren't as many sexy options. But if you're interested in curating and you can choose between an underpaid museum job, or managing a private gallery, it's not so easy to decide. And if you happen to manage a museum and you're hiring that employee, the problem is acute. When any NPO starts looking to hire someone into a creative position in marketing or communications, they'll face this problem.

From my own experience, I've learned that many nonprofits are willing to pay top-dollar for a variety of consultants - communications, capital campaign, long-range planning, etc. that are often far out of scale with internal salary levels. This tells me two things:
1. Boards do recognize the actual costs of doing business.
2. Boards believe that you will work for less, because you will.
If you're not willing to walk away from the table, you're not negotiating.

Posted by Chris Casquilho

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