The Solution to the Executive Director Compensation Dilemma

It is well established that chief executives of small and even medium-sized nonprofits wear many hats. In addition to working with the board of directors to set strategic direction and hiring and managing the staff to achieve organizational goals, s/he may also serve as the chief development officer and the human resources director, and fill-in for the van driver or crisis hot-line manager.  In common parlance, the CEO is chief cook and bottle washer and many of us enjoy the variety that comes with the role. We are quick and nimble, able to move from high-level thinking to operational detail and everywhere in between. We chose the work because we are fierce advocates for our clients, our staff and our community.  

But, when it comes to advocating for ourselves, we may demur.  Why?   

Is it because the majority of us leading small to medium-sized nonprofits are women and we self-advocate less than our male colleagues? Or is it a rational decision – that if we advocate for an increase in pay, we will be responsible for raising more money to cover the increased expense? I have been in that category at certain points in my career.

A common issue among executive directors is that their board of directors does not regularly review their performance or compensation. Adopting this best practice by the board is a first step to ensuring that the responsibility for the analysis of performance and pay of the person with primary responsibility for the success of the organization doesn’t also devolve to that chief executive. S/he has a big job and s/he needs the board to step up to theirs. If you want help with this governance issue or any challenge facing your nonprofit, I’d like to hear from you. 

Julie Crockford
Empower Success Corps