News and analysis
March 05, 2015

Grant-Maker Pay Outpaces Inflation Since Recession, Report Says

Foundation program officers and chief executives received salary increases during the past five years that slightly outpaced inflation, according to a survey released Thursday.

According to the Council on Foundations’ latest study of grant-maker pay and demographics, salaries climbed at 392 foundations that provided data for five consecutive years. During that time period, the median salary of chief executives at those foundations increased from $160,000 to $176,691, and the median salary for program officers increased from $83,000 to $90,000.

When the council looked at a broader selection of responses, from 964 foundations with 9,476 full-time workers, it found that salaries were essentially flat in 2014. Those foundations paid a median annual salary of $73,747 last year, down slightly from $74,061. However, the figures from the full sample are less reliable indicators of trends because they compare a different mix of participants from year to year.

Indeed, the survey, which was conducted in 2014, showed that three out of four of foundations gave or had planned to give their employees a bump in pay last year.

Half of all foundations surveyed reported no staff departures during 2013. Corporate grant makers reported the highest retention rate, at 77 percent.

But a wave of turnover may be imminent. More than 40 percent of foundation employees are over 50, the study found; 6 percent have passed retirement age. More than 17 percent of foundation chief executives are 65 or older.

"A significant leadership shift is upon us," said Jesse Salazar, spokesman for the council.

The survey also found:

  • Three out of four foundation employees are women.
  • More than half of foundation CEOs in the survey are female, but they lead only 28 percent of organizations with assets of $1 billion or more.
  • Racial minorities accounted for 24 percent of full-time staff, including 10 percent who were black, 7 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian.
  • Minorities accounted for 32 percent of program officers over all; at foundations with assets of $2 billion or more, that number rose to 45 percent.

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