2021 Nonprofit Salaries Guide: How much should you pay your staff?

Ines Alvergne • Nov 05, 2020

COVID-19 has shattered our economies to an extent we don’t fully grasp yet, and the nonprofit sector is not immune to the turmoil. 

Since we started tracking nonprofit salaries – in 2018 –  average compensations have slowly increased for all nonprofits job positions – except for CEOs for whom it declined. 

While studies reported that mid-size nonprofits in the US had to cut staff by nearly half since the pandemic onset, we haven’t observed a negative impact on nonprofit salaries’ national averages yet. 

The pandemic’s long-term effects on nonprofit salaries are uncertain. We’ll continue to track this data year-over-year to present you with the latest, updated findings. 

We believe this study is essential for employees to compare themselves with industry trends and for employers to offer competitive, fair salaries to their staff. 

How to establish nonprofit salary ranges

Developing fair salary ranges is a crucial driver in recruiting and retaining staff. Besides, it can help nonprofit executives forecast their budget for the coming year. 

To define nonprofit salary levels, you need to take into account the following variables:

  • Geographic location: Salaries vary depending on the state and the city you’re located in because of the cost of living. For instance, according to Payscale data, Executive Directors in New York earn 57.5% more than the national average. 
  • Organization size: For the most part, larger organizations tend to pay higher wages. 
  • Duties and responsibilities involved: Employees with higher responsibilities and supervising others typically earn more. 
  • Qualifications and experience: Salary levels depend on the years of experience the position requires. Education levels, specialized knowledge, and skills also affect compensation. 

Now that you have a better grasp of the factors at play, let’s have a look at the national averages of nonprofit salaries. 

Nonprofit salary trends in the United States, Canada, and Australia

Every year, we track nonprofit salaries to present you with ongoing findings and trends. 

You can use this study to learn your market value and see what are acceptable salary ranges in the sector. Keep in mind that these are national averages and salaries can greatly vary across states and cities. 

For the information, we looked at publicly sourced data from Payscale. Here, we found 27,927 respondents from various sets of data who responded with salary inquiries for the following positions within the nonprofit sector:

  • Program Coordinator
  • Program Manager
  • Fundraising Manager
  • Executive Director
  • CEO

We looked specifically at the average salary in the US, Canada, and Australia without considering bonuses or any extra income (as these vary quite a bit).

Below are the 2020 data and some of the interesting findings:

Average nonprofit salaries in the US

Job TitleAverage Salary (USD)
Program Coordinator43,633
Program Manager52,290
Fundraising Manager54,779
Executive Director67,297

Average nonprofit salaries in Canada

Job TitleAverage Salary (CAD)
Program Coordinator44,795
Program Manager56,447
Fundraising Manager59,211
Executive Director66,682

Average nonprofit salaries in Australia

Job TitleAverage Salary (AUD)
Program Coordinator63,088
Program Manager78,454
Fundraising Manager79,221
Executive Director102,936

About the data: These salaries are from October 2020. This is US, Canadian, and Australian national data from PayScale and includes total compensation, including salaries, bonuses, and other benefits. Nonprofit salaries vary widely. Industry, company size, geography, and experience are all major factors. 27,927 people respondedd from various data sets.

Download the 2021 Full Guide to Nonprofit Salaries

This guide is complete with market rates, job description templates, and growth tools for Canadian, American and Australian Nonprofits.

Get a BONUS checklist to hire and onboard employees remotely!

Professional growth: What career paths exist in the nonprofit sector?

We also researched some of the most popular job paths and progressions within the nonprofit sector. 

As you can see in the visual below, the paths are varied — with many leading towards the role of an eventual Executive Director. 

Because of the nature of work in the nonprofit sector, individuals are required to wear multiple hats. And while this can be a leading contributor to burnout, it also helps to build a multi-disciplinary staff, with a wealth of skill. So it’s no surprise that Program Coordinators branch out to all areas of the nonprofit sector as careers progress.

There is no straight line to leadership roles or higher salary brackets in the sector. There seldom is when it comes to career paths, but this is underscored even more with the nonprofit sector.

Guidelines for writing nonprofit job descriptions

 Now that you have a better grasp on nonprofit salaries, you might find yourself having to put together a new job description on the fly. 

Here are some high-level role descriptions to help guide you.

Sample Job Descriptions for Program Coordinators

Program Coordinators are essential to the operation of a nonprofit organization. Often responsible for running a certain program or segment of a nonprofit, they often work on the frontlines, working with the population the nonprofit serves. They collaborate with other departments to make decisions about how to create strategic impact.

Some common tasks include:

  • Manage the administration of nonprofit programs
  • Promote the nonprofit organization
  • Oversee program staff/volunteers

What skills to look out for in a candidate:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Planning

Sample Job Descriptions for Program Managers

Program Managers deal a lot with the alignment of projects to the overall goals of the organization. They work closely with volunteers and other program staff while handling budgets and the program’s activities.

Some common tasks include:

  • Manage the administration of nonprofit programs 
  • Work with other members of the organization in support of goals
  • Oversee the training and management of staff/volunteers

What skills to look out for in a candidate:

  • Team Leadership
  • Budget Management
  • Project Management
  • Event Planning 

Sample Job Descriptions for Fundraising Managers

The Fundraising Manager is responsible for ensuring the organization has the necessary funding to function. This individual creates fundraising strategies, detailing how they can receive financial support. They are also responsible for leading fundraising efforts on an individual, corporate and grants level. They are responsible for building a strong donor base.

Common tasks include:

  • Develop strategic plans to raise money for the organization
  • May also be responsible for the financial condition of the organization
  • Oversee fundraising efforts by writing grants, researching foundations, and implementing fundraising strategies

What skills to look out for in a candidate:

  • Fundraising
  • Donor Relations 
  • Event Planning 
  • CRM Expertise
  • Grant Writing 

Sample Job Descriptions for Executive Directors

Often the top-level executive in a nonprofit organization. This individual will work closely with the Board of Directors and is ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. This individual guides the vision and direction of the organization as established by the board.

Common tasks include:

  • Oversee and direct general fundraising activities and grant applications
  • May act as a source of everyday operations for members on the board
  • Supervise and direct nonprofit staff

What skills to look out for in a candidate:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Development
  • Budget Development 
  • Fundraising 

Sample Job Descriptions for CEOs of a Nonprofit

The CEO is responsible for overseeing the organization’s functions and employees. They might also be responsible for overseeing the finances on a periodic basis. They also work closely with the Board of Directors, and help to drive initiatives that build the organization’s mission and vision.

Common tasks include:

  • Drive strategic planning, business development, and fiscal operations
  • Establish positive relationships with stakeholders and other business leaders
  • Determine overarching goals and initiatives

What skills to look out for in a candidate:

  • Budget Management
  • Fundraising
  • Operations Management
  • People Management

Growing your organization with nonprofit technology 

 Your growth goals as a nonprofit — including your goals to grow your team with new hires and roles — are directly tied to your ability to raise more money. And a lot of this can be done by working smarter. 

In the midst of a pandemic and financial recession, it may seem counterintuitive to invest in technology. 

But even if your resources are limited, there has never been a better time to start putting your eggs in the digital basket. 

First, by using nonprofit software to automate a lot of administrative processes, your team is able to narrow down its focus to the things that matter the most: building relationships with your supporters.

Second, leveraging the power of technology makes way for new online fundraising opportunities. From virtual events to email marketing, and donor management, nonprofit software opens the door to online fundraising growth despite the current uncertainty. 

For instance, Keela Intelligence features empower fundraisers to understand supporters’ giving history and interests. 

Donors are interacting with your organization in increasingly new and innovative ways but it can be hard to keep track of unless you are also growing and innovating. If you don’t have a mechanism to analyze the data, you might be losing out on opportunities. With Keela, you can get insights on the ideal donation amount to ask for, when the best way to contact your donors is, and through which medium. 

Ultimately, this leads to increased capacity, increased community impact, and eventually, the ability to increase the headcount of your team

Download the 2021 Full Guide to Nonprofit Salaries

This guide is complete with market rates, job description templates, and growth tools for Canadian, American and Australian Nonprofits.

Get a BONUS checklist to hire and onboard employees remotely!