A talented workforce is key for nonprofits to succeed while making an impact. That’s why the core of our work at Momentum Nonprofit Partners is to provide learning opportunities for nonprofit professionals to better serve their communities and organizations’ missions.
Well, mission building starts with justly compensating employees.
In July, Momentum announced we would no longer accept nonprofit job postings that pay less than $15 an hour and $31,200 per year, and would not list positions where salaries are not disclosed. Of the 268 job postings we received through the end of June, 101 did not list the salary.
Our policy change addresses systemic challenges around a sector that tends to lean toward financial martyrdom in the name of charity. This is one step toward equity and justice in the fight for fair pay. With this shift, we intend to initiate action toward offering first-class employment opportunities in the non-profit sector.
These professionals deserve respect and dignity when they enter our doors. Our vision of nonprofits solving community challenges alongside government, business and philanthropy is achievable through awareness, starting with acknowledgment of root causes that create and perpetuate systemic inequity in our community. Our guiding principles ground our work to strengthen nonprofit organizations internally to do their best work for the community.
Working extra jobs to stretch paltry pay
The Peterson Institute for International Economics suggests higher wages create strong job performance that leads to lower turnover and increased morale in the workplace. From a talent perspective, competitive wages attract strong applicants who thrive once hired.
When I worked with our local welfare-to-work program over 10 years ago, there were participants who found a job that was great on paper, and they were excited to accept the position. They soon learned the job did not pay enough to support their family and had to make one of two decisions:
- Accept the position and seek a second (or third) job to supplement the income, limiting time spent with family.
- Decline the offer and seek an opportunity offering the stability needed for balancing a high quality of life with family.
According to the National Employment Law Project’s policy brief, women and people of color make up a disproportionate number of workers who make less than $15 an hour: 42% of the U.S. workforce fit in that category compared with 50% of African-Americans, 59.5% of Latinos and 54.7% of women. The Economic Policy Institute’s budget calculator shows a true living wage for one adult with one child in Memphis is $24.25 an hour.
By closing the wealth gap, women and people of color can make ends meet while improving educational and health outcomes for families. Nonprofit employees are fighting battles for people in great need, people many of us may never see, and their compensation should reflect work accomplished every day. A family’s quality of life improves when they are elevated to an honorable earning potential in a career that supports their well-being.
Upending the status quo
Our organization is showing up to help influence progress for equity and justice. To model the way, we, along with eight nonprofit organizations, will participate in a learning experience facilitated by Beloved Community, an advocacy organization for diversity, equity and inclusion in schools, employment and housing. We will begin to examine structural changes to lead us closer to an equitable workplace for internal and external collaborators.
We know this process will lead us to keener awareness as we ask ourselves: Are we upholding status quo, or will we challenge spaces to expand equity?While engaging in racial equity training and using data to drive change, the culmination of this six-month process will be an equity action plan designed by each organization that will anchor decision-making and policy creation.
Time for action, accountability
Collectively, let us take steps to challenge entrenched ways of being, that move us toward a strong foundation. Here are some ways we can show up for our peers and staff:
- Collaborate with your peer organizations to invest in the annual Nonprofit Compensation Report from GuideStar by Candid. Leverage the report as a guide to determining personnel budgets.
- Research work by organizations such as the national Fund the People campaign that maximizes investment in the nonprofit workforce. The core work centers on their Talent Justice Initiative addressing talent investing and intersectional racial equity at three key stages — access to careers, advancement to mid-level management, and ascension into executive leadership and management.
Join us in building a highly engaged workforce that is the norm, where employees are reaching their maximum potential and are motivated to work for the greater good. Let’s hold ourselves accountable by challenging entrenched ways of thinking and move toward positive change.
Dorian Spears is chief partnerships officer at Momentum Nonprofit Partners. Colleagues Mesha Crump, Aria Miles and Kate Moss contributed to this article.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Southern Documentary Project and Community Change.