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Some Female Nonprofit Execs Earn 23% Less Than Men

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The nonprofit sector’s glass ceiling is intact.

A new report from GuideStar found that the median compensation for female chief executives at nonprofits in 2012 trailed that of their male counterparts by as much as 23% depending on the organization’s size.

This has been going on for 14 consecutive years, according to GuideStar, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides information on the programs, finances and impact of IRS-recognized nonprofit groups.

The report also found that female representation in the chief executive role declined as budget size increased. Only 17% of nonprofits with budgets exceeding $50 million were led by women in 2012.

By comparison, the majority of organizations with budgets of less than $1 million had female chief executives.  

For its report, GuideStar analyzed key employee compensation across its database of digitized IRS Form 990 information for 501(c) organizations for fiscal year 2012. The report includes statistical compensation analysis for 14 executive-level job categories by gender, budget size, program area and geography as well as comparisons of year-over-year compensation increases for incumbent executives.

The report found that economic uncertainty continued to affect compensation increases in 2012, although salaries for chief executives who retained their positions had the highest percentage increase since 2008.

In 2012, median increases in incumbent CEO compensation were 2.2%, up from 2% in 2011 but still lagging prerecession numbers. In 2008, increases were generally 4% or higher.

“In 2012, there was a greater median increase in nonprofit CEO compensation compared to 2011, which is possibly a sign that the economic conditions started to improve for nonprofits,” GuideStar’s vice president of research, Chuck McLean, said in a statement.

“Female CEOs made 11% less on average at organizations with budgets of $250,000 or less, and 23% less at organizations with budgets between $25 million and $50 million,” McLean said.

“All of this tells us that the social sector has a long way to go to meet gender equity in executive compensation.”

Other Findings

The report found that health and science organizations, as usual, had the highest overall median salaries. Arts, religion and animal-related groups brought up the rear.

For the ninth consecutive year, Washington, D.C., had the highest overall median salary of the top 20 metropolitan statistical areas.

Portland, Oregon, for the second consecutive year, had the lowest median salary, although chief executives in Oakland had the lowest purchasing power when adjusted for cost of living.

GuideStar noted that nonprofits were tasked with setting executive compensation at a reasonable level under the IRS’s enforcement of the Federal Private Inurement Prohibition.

“In determining an executive’s compensation, the board or committee of the board must document the full process — what are the details of the compensation package, when was it approved, who approved it, what comparability data was used,” McLean said.

“The board must use data from comparable organizations in determining appropriate compensation.”

GuideStar offers an informational white paper on nonprofit executive compensation.

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