The Automatic Nonprofit Salary Calculator

A tongue-in-cheek version of the familiar Salary Calculator model to comment trenchantly on the indiscriminate — and not so indiscriminate — differences in how nonprofit staff get paid.

The Automatic Nonprofit Salary Calculator
4 mins read

A “scientific” formula that you can use to check your nonprofit salary against reality.

How much should you be paid for your nonprofit job?

What… you want to get PAID? You mean an actual salary, not just a stipend, and for a nonprofit job that is not solely volunteer? Don’t forget to factor in all of the psychic income you get knowing you are making the world a better place! After all, you are doing the Lord’s work, so your reward may not be in this life but in the next. Plus, there is the prestige and halo effect – that has to be worth something!

Even after taking these not inconsiderable intrinsic rewards into account, you might still wonder whether you are getting paid the right amount of actual money (probably not) or whether one of your co-workers is getting paid the right amount (probably too much). The following 14 data points provide a “scientific” formula (created by someone with two advanced degrees, neither of them in a scientific field) that you can use to check your salary against cruel reality:

1. Begin

Start by entering your organization’s total budget here: ____________

Then enter the the number of full time equivalent employees here:________

Then divide the budget by the number of FTE, write in here: __________

Then divide by 2 = ____________ Use this number as a base then change according to your answers to the questions below.

[Example: if your organization has a $1 million dollar budget and 25 FTEs, then divide $1,000,000 by 25 = $40,000. Divide that by 2 and you get the starting number of $20,000.]

2. Some fields pay better than others.

Adjust based on your organization’s filed of endeavor:

Activity AreaAdjust by the following percentage:
Arts & culture-10%
Human services-8%
Civic improvement-2%
Community organizing-15%
Philanthropy and foundations-15%
Animal welfare-10% but you get to bring your dog to work

3. Primary source of revenue for your organization

Fees paid by users+10%
Fees paid by third parties+12%
Government contracts-2%
Foundation grants-11%
Individual contributions+7%
Secret source+10% if you’re the one that solicits it. Otherwise 0%

4. Your highest educational attainment:

High School-7%
College or higher-7%
Your highest degree obtained at one of the following: An Ivy League school, Stanford, MIT, Duke, Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Hawaii+10%

5. Your gender (select one):

Choose not to respond+4%

6. Two thirds or more of the staff in your organization are:

People of color-15%

7. Your position:

Executive Director+275%
Management Team member+150%

8. Are the majority of employees represented by a labor union?


9. Where do the majority of the organization’s board members work?

Large corporation+3%
Own small business+1%
Other nonprofits-10%
Retired or stay-at-home moms-15%

10. If you are the CEO or a senior manager, what amount did the organization spend on a compensation consultant to determine if your salary is “reasonable”?

More than $25,000+90%
Between $5,000 and $25,000+60%
Under $5,000+1%
It’s obvious I’m not excessively compensated-11%

11. How many of your blood relatives or close friends are on the board of directors?

All of them; it’s a family-foundation+25%
Two or more+20%

12. Are board members paid to be on the board (not counting travel reimbursement and/or snacks at meetings)?

NoNo adjustment

13. How would you describe the method used by the board?

Transformative governance0%
Carver model0%
BoardSource bookletts0%
“Working” board0%
Dominated by the CEO+20% if you’re the CEO
-5% if you’re not

14. How actively do you negotiate for a raise?

I wait for my supervisor to act-5%
I ask whether I will receive a raise or not0%
I suggest the amount I want to receive+8%

15. Are you feeling lucky?


Congratulations! You have properly calculated your appropriate salary. Now get back to work. 🙂

See also:

About the Author

Jon Pratt is executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which publishes a sensible Salary and Benefits Survey.

Although he has a degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard and is a male CEO, he swears that his organization has never paid a compensation consultant $20,000 for a "Top Hat Plan." (But if you need one, he might know someone who could fix you up...)

Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.

10 thoughts on “The Automatic Nonprofit Salary Calculator

  1. You forgot geographic. Add ten points if you're on the coasts, five points if you're in a midwestern city and minus five if you are in a rural area.

  2. It’s calling it names to say it’s a budget, but if we put that at $25,000 per year, divide by number of FTE employees (0) . . . . I guess I should receive infinite compensation!

    A VERY small museum 🙂

  3. As always, Jon, awesome insight and irreverent humor! You forgot to add a section for “Turn-around of a near-death nonprofit.”

  4. As always, Jon, awesome insight and irreverent humor! You forgot to add a section for “Turn-around of a near-death nonprofit.”

  5. I am researching compensation for Animal Welfare groups……both salaries and hourly rates. Will your calculator provide that type of information? Thanks. Gigi G.

  6. I am researching compensation for Animal Welfare groups……both salaries and hourly rates. Will your calculator provide that type of information? Thanks. Gigi G.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *