For a few years now, folks inside the sector have been wrestling with the notion of wage.
As a new generation rides over the ridge, many (if not all) will not be able to make do with the modest wages that nonprofits often offer their new employees. Unlike the founding generation of leaders, this new generation is the first to come into the sector (en masse) armed with both significant volunteer experience AND a degree (often in nonprofit management). This will require them to make a wage that allows them to manage both student loan repayment schedules as well as an alarmingly escalating cost of living. Simply put -- this new generation needs to make a solid wage.
But what is a solid wage? Some have argued that we mist be prepared to mirror wages offered by blue chip firms (six figures), if we are going to attract blue chip talent. But is that the case?
First of all, would the public support these higher wages? As crazy as it is to grapple with misunderstandings about how nonprofits work, and the important role of things like administrative overhead -- the world is what it is. For wages to increase, so must public respect for, and appreciation of, nonprofits. Without that public education, we'll walk right into a wave of populist anger.
Second, as important as a solid wage is, does anybody really need, let alone deserve, a six-figure salary when most Americans will never nudge $50-65K? I must admit, I wonder if it isn't more appropriate for nonprofits to be leading the "all jobs have value - how do we raise the average citizen's wage" debate. Considering that most direct service need is driven by lack of living wages, this tactic might yield better long-term results that further professionalize the sector.
But perhaps what is most important here is what I refer to as the Tyler Durden question -- will more money actually make you happier? Before you answer, consider taking a look at Baby Boomers. Do they look all polka dots and moonbeams? Now ask yourself -- given all the stuff they bought, why aren't they all grinning ear-to-ear? Then ask yourself, do I want to go down that same road?
Look, I make $85K at DC Central Kitchen (DCCK). That's far more than many working in the US, but much lower than many executives of my experience level. Others at DCCK make more than I do (not a lot, mind you), but this is just my own experiment in wage. My point -- I'm happy as a f****lark. I dig my work. All of us here make a solid middle class salary and everyone has bennies. Most importantly, we rock the city. So while more money might be nice, it isn't essential. Other things are. I focus on that.
But this is an open dialogue, so I ask -- what do you think?