Non-profit Salaries

A friend recently published a response to a post on Franklin Graham’s annual salary. My response in this blog is neither an endorsement or an indictment of Franklin Graham – it is a response to the general population’s attitudes towards non-profit salaries.  I have spent most of my career working for non-profit organizations (whether that be a church or charity). During most of that time my salary wasn’t anywhere close to what a comparable position would pay in the commercial marketplace, but my personal experience isn’t really relevant either. What is relevant is what I have learned from 30 + years working for charitable organizations. So this is what I know:

  1. There are far more people working in the non-profit community who are underpaid than there are who are overpaid. Most of the stories we read about non-profit salaries would lead you think that the President, CEO, or Executive Director of non-profits are given sinfully high salaries and benefits, but these are exceptions, not the rule.
  2. The best and brightest in the non-profit community either end up with one of the few great paying jobs or they leave for higher paying wages in other fields. This point is anecdotal at best, but I personally know dozens of quality people who have left the non-profit world for two reasons: 1) They are under appreciated and, 2) they are under paid.
  3. Those working in the private sector perpetuate the myth that charitable workers should make less than everyone else because it is charity, or God’s work. If their skill set is equal, their effort is equal, their educational background is equal, and their productivity is equal, why should they earn less?  I have an idea – why don’t you whiners and complainers who have nice corporate jobs with benefits give them up and join the non-profit workers who have neither?
  4. Christian ministries and churches are particularly susceptible  to this kind of thinking. I continually hear about the shortage of preachers, then I see what the salary is for a guy who just spent $100,000 getting an education at a private Christian University. No wonder there is a shortage. He is asked to work for $500 a week without health insurance, or any other benefits and expected to be happy about it. I think I will try to get a job at UPS or Publix and work my way through management.

This post is a little bit of a Holy whine because I have experienced this mindset and many of my contemporaries have also had the same experience. It reminds me of the church member who tells the preacher’s wife, “I can’t wait for you guys to begin your work, cause we get 2 for the price of 1.”  Talk about devaluing a human being.  When we expect non-profit workers to do the same (and often times more) work for less money we devalue their worth and become part of the problem charities face each day – finding competent help.

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