Non-profit social justice-minded organizations no better employers than their for-profit colleagues, BGU researchers find

On May 13th, Ben Gurion University released a study titled: “Non-profit social justice-minded organizations no better employers than their for-profit colleagues, BGU researchers find”. (Sorry for the delayed reaction to this; I was working my way through my series on Dan Pallotta’s TED talk 🙂 ) The article was picked up by, and I’m sure other sites as well. You can find the article here: 
With all love and respect to BGU, an institution that I regard very highly, I (unfortunately) didn’t really think that this was “news” :). Non-profits have lower salaries,  are dominated by women, are mostly located in Israel in central regions (Jerusalem/Tel Aviv)  … I think these are known and established facts (although I would like to discuss- in another blog post- the ratio of women to men working in non-profits versus the level of positions of men versus women at NFPs) .
I do think it’s interesting to note that under 40% of employees work more than two years in their organization. That’s a whole discussion on it’s own, which I think I have covered in other blog posts. Besides the low salaries, there is also the “Burn Out” factor (see my earlier post on this for more details). And again, as I have discussed, if non-profits do not have a structure for advancement, then skilled employees may look for new opportunities elsewhere.  
It is interesting to see the actual statistics. In 2009, the average monthly non-profit wage in Israel was 4,230 NIS. I’ve heard now that the average monthly salary in Israel is between 8,000- 9,000 NIS. So in 2009 it was most likely around 8,000 NIS. So the average non-profit employee is earning almost 50% less than a for-profit worker. 
They also mention the high salaries of non-profit CEOs. They found that the average salary was 17,047 NIS. I don’t doubt that their figures are accurate, but I’m not sure how that could be, because there are many CEOs making 50,000 NIS + (this is public knowledge on, as NFPs must have financial transparency). 
As most of this information does not seem to be new (except for the actual figures), I’m not sure how the non-profit world can use this information to improve itself. Maybe it is time to take a serious look at having a structure for promotion in order to keep employees, and take a VERY serious look as to why non-profit employee compensation is in general much lower than for-profit. As Dan Pallotta said, it causes one to make a choice whether to support one’s family (by working in the for-profit sector) or to help the world (by working in the non-profit sector). I think that as a community of non-profit professionals (especially those of us in Israel), it’s time to start seriously thinking about solutions to these problems. It seems that no one else is going to do it for us. 
Does anyone have any ideas? 
Chava Ashkenazi
Jerusalem, Israel 
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6 Responses to Non-profit social justice-minded organizations no better employers than their for-profit colleagues, BGU researchers find

  1. lolkin says:

    I am a marketing professional trying to break into not for profit from corporate. Lower salary does not scare me, I know what to expect. I have previous volunteer experience with the charity where trustees were pulling it in different directions, their egos were more important than the cause and internal politics were rampant. People who work/ed in NGOs tell me it’s often a highly bureacratic mess and funds are misused. I can read reports about how much of actual donated $1 is going to the cause. It does not stop me, I still want in. But to my surprise, I discover that getting into charity sector is very difficult. Roles are not advertised. Hiring process is not clear. Job descriptions are often highly specialised and there is no interest – actually resistance! – to hiring someone ‘from outside’ even if skills are transferable. Not for profit sector should work on becoming more transparent when it comes to advertising roles, hiring and should be open more to outsiders, especially people with transferable skills who want to join them. I personally now think I will reconsider and either join social enterprise instead – these guys are more organised and more open, or continue in the corporate world supporting the charities of my choice.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences! May I ask, where are you located? When I lived in the US (I moved at the end of 2007), my experience was that jobs were advertised (Jewish Jobs Weekly for the Jewish world,, etc.). However, based on my experiences in Israel, I would have to agree with you. Many jobs are not advertised. That is why I have learned that it is so important to network! Find people in the field, in the job that you would like to do. Ask them for their advice, if they know of any available jobs, or if they have any contacts you can speak with. This can help to open a lot of doors. But I would advise you to still keep your eye out for job posts- they too could potentially lead to something. Social enterprise organizations also do much good. Perhaps they are more organized because they have developed more recently, and thus are more open to new ideas, adapting to changes in technology, etc. If you do continue in the corporate world, it is wonderful that you have charities that you will (and do) support. Perhaps you could even volunteer for an organization. Whatever you decide, I wish you much success!

  3. jonnydegani says:

    While the average Israeli salary is around 8,300, the median salary is probably around 6,000. NPO workers are making less, but not that much less; it’s probably just a bit below the median for women. A similar story goes for the CEOs of NPOs: the “start-up” NPO’s make very little for their CEO’s, but the more established ones make much much more and the spread makes the mean almost irrelevant. The real story behind the numbers is a sector as diverse as its for-profit counterpart.
    I think the real problem with NPOs is a lack of unions. NPOs don’t have unions because “how can you strike against a good cause” but unions are the most common way to advance worker’s rights. In fact, the sectors within the non-profit world with unions – college professors, nurses, etc – are the ones whose salaries seem to rise above the statistics stated above.

  4. Great point about unions, Jon! I know that some non-profits in the US did have unions, although the industry is trying more and more to phase them out. I personally don’t know how to go about getting a union started, but I agree that it is an excellent idea (something to look into!).

  5. jmdenison says:

    I think the reason for the lower profits is that in the US the IRS (tax service) tightly regulates the types of activities an NFP can engage in, and so do the states. It has to be to serve the poor and those in need, those on public aide, etc. Most NFP’s get government assistance or grants. These are hard to come by. Most NFP’s are limited to activities such as providing information, helping people fill out govt assistance forms, providing social and charitable services. You will also note a lot of foundations will not provide for building, staff or overhead expenses. That means they will donate food, clothes, toys or money therefore, but nothing else. Charities have to constantly be raising their own funds via fund raisers or doing some sort of activities on the side that generate funds so they can survive.
    You are right that while 90% of large for-profit corporations are owned and operated by men, the ratio is about 80% for NFP’s owned and operated by women. About 70% of small businesses are owned and operated by women, but I think that would include a lot of hair, nail, beauty salons, florists, massage, reiki, nursing placement companies, etc.

  6. chavaleh1127 says:

    Thank you for your comment! I agree that part of the “problem” non-profits are facing is that donors and/or foundations do not want to give to overhead expenses (salaries, administration, etc.). I think it is up to us in the non-profit community to educate our donors about the importance of these expenses, without which the organizations would not exist! Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to do this?

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