News and analysis
September 27, 2010

Gender Gap in Nonprofit Salaries Persists, Study Finds


Female executives are receiving a smaller percentage of the total compensation paid by charities, even though the proportion of charity leaders who are women continues to rise, a new study has found.

The proportion of chief executives who are women edged higher in 2008, to nearly 47 percent, according to an annual survey by GuideStar, an organization in Williamsburg, Va., that collects the informational tax forms that nonprofit groups are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service. Yet female leaders continue to be much more heavily represented at smaller charities. Women held 57 percent of the chief-executive positions at organizations with budgets of $1-million or less but only 38 percent of the top positions at organizations with budgets of more than $1-million.

Female charity leaders received a median salary increase of 4 percent in 2008, roughly the same increase received by their male counterparts.

Over all, women held 48 percent of the jobs in the 14 leadership categories that GuideStar tracks­—including top positions in finance, operations, development, and marketing. However, women received only 29 percent of the total compensation in the survey, down from 35 percent in 2007.

“Female CEO’s really are making some progress,” says Chuck McLean, GuideStar’s vice president for research and the author of the report. “But women in other positions don’t seem to be keeping up with the progress that CEO’s are making.”

Mr. McLean speculated that scrutiny of executive compensation by the Internal Revenue Service and others might be causing charities to close pay gaps by gender at the chief-executive level. “Maybe that’s not happening in the marketing department and in other areas,” he says.

Recession’s Impact

Male and female chief executives at the largest charities received bigger raises in 2008 than their counterparts at smaller charities. The two largest groups of charities in the survey—with revenues greater than $25-million—raised salaries for chief executives by more than 5 percent in 2008. The four smallest groups of charities—with revenues of $2.5-million or less—raised salaries by 4 percent or less.

Mr. McLean cautions that the compensation captured by this year’s survey was set before the economy faltered in late 2008.

“We know from our economic surveys that a lot of organizations have not been giving salary increases over the last couple of years,” he says. “When I look at 2010 data two years from now, I expect that the salary data will be pretty much like the 2008 data, or maybe even be a little lower.”

The highest median salaries for all leadership positions in the survey were paid by science and technology research institutes ($134,329), health organizations ($131,145), and medical-research charities ($115,110). The lowest median salaries were paid by nonprofit groups that focus on religion ($57,001), food and nutrition ($65,620), and animal welfare ($67,498).

The survey also examines median pay for all leadership positions in 20 large metropolitan areas. For the fifth straight year, charities in Washington paid the highest median CEO salary, $125,052. Organizations in the Riverside-San Bernardino area of California paid the least, $82,007.

The 2010 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report is based on an analysis of federal tax returns filed by nearly 100,000 nonprofit groups. Electronic copies of the report can be purchased for $349 apiece on the GuideStar Web site.


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