News and analysis
June 28, 2013

Pay for Foundation Employees Rose Slowly Last Year

Pay increases for foundation employees grew at a slower rate last year than they did in 2011 and 2010, according to a new survey by the Council on Foundations.

The median salary for all full-time foundation employees grew 2.1 percent in 2012, meaning that pay was essentially flat because it simply kept pace with the rate of inflation. In the previous two years, the median salary rise was 3 percent.

Last year, the median salary for all full-time workers at the grant-making organizations surveyed was $72,000. Since 2008, foundation salaries grew by a median of 11 percent, not adjusted for inflation, according to the survey.

The slowing growth in salary increases is probably the result of the still-shaky economy, says Ericka Plater Turner, managing director of professional development for the Council on Foundations. But also, she says, it may indicate “a leveling off when it comes to staffing and investments.”

A 'Silver Tsunami’

One trend that caught her eye in the new survey’s data, she says, is the uptick in the share of foundations that pay benefits such as health insurance to their retired employees. In 2007, 25 percent of foundations were making such payments; in 2012, nearly 29 percent were. In addition, grant makers’ staffs are graying rapidly: More than 40 percent of full-time foundation workers were age 50 or older last year, compared with about 25 percent in 2007.

The aging work force, Ms. Plater Turner says, presents both opportunities and challenges for grant makers. “We in the foundations world will be seeing a greater cadre of senior and experienced colleagues to help answer the questions we face in philanthropy. And it will be important for the foundation sector to look at what the pipeline offers so we can face the silver tsunami coming from the waves of baby-boomer retirements.”

9 in 10 Predicted Raises

Chief executives at foundations made a median of $145,000 last year, and three of every 10 top leaders were offered a bonus in 2011. From 2008 to 2012, pay for community foundation CEOs rose 3.7 percent and for private-foundation leaders, 6.5 percent, neither figure adjusted for inflation.

Program officers were paid a median of $80,936. Officials in those jobs at community funds saw a loss of 0.5 percent in pay during the same period, while program officers at private foundations saw their pay rise by 7 percent, neither figure adjusted for inflation.

The council surveyed 893 U.S. grant-making organizations and tallied data on 7,614 full-time paid positions. Of those, 38 percent were community foundations, 29 percent were private funds, 20 percent were family foundations, and the rest other types of grant-making organizations. Foundations were asked to report salary and benefit data as of February 1, 2012.

Among other findings:

  • Nearly nine in 10 grant makers said they planned to give staff members salary raises in 2012, roughly the same share that reported those intentions in last year’s survey.
  • The larger an organization is, the more likely it is to be led by a male CEO: Eight-two percent of foundations with assets under $5-million had women leaders, but that share drops significantly for organizations with more resources. Fifty-five percent of foundations with $100-million to $250-million in assets, for example, employ a woman as top executive, while at the very largest organizations, those with more than $750-million in their coffers, only one in four CEO jobs are held by women.
  • Community foundations were least likely among all grant-making organizations to have staff members who are minorities, with only 19 percent reporting minorities among their workers. Private foundations, excluding family funds, were most likely to report minorities on their payrolls, at 29 percent.
  • Forty-six percent of foundation CEOs in the survey have the authority to make discretionary grants. The median limit per discretionary grant was $10,000, and the median limit per year was just over $30,000.

Copies of the “2012 Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Report” can be purchased from the Council on Foundations. The cost is $149 for members, $199 for nonmembers. Go to:

Median Salaries for Foundation CEOs in 2012

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Note: Family foundations are not included in private-foundation figures.
Source: Council on Foundations

Send an e-mail to Heather Joslyn.