President's Perspective Blog

Choosing the Equitable Path for Salaries

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Access (IDEA): Diversity and Inclusion (IDEA)
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I’ve had a fair amount of experience managing staff in my years as a fundraiser. And while I’ve always enjoyed that part of my role, the actual hiring process can be a bear—specifically, the dreaded salary negotiation. 

I had my line down. “OK, now here comes the most difficult question of the interview. What salary range are you looking for?” More often than not, the candidate would say an amount that was above what I knew I could offer. At the end of all the back and forth, someone inevitably ended up dissatisfied. 

More significantly, not disclosing salaries upfront, and thus, salary negotiation, perpetuates inequity. 

I currently serve as the director of advancement at Yes Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas. When I was offered the position at YES Prep, I was told that the offer was final. No negotiation. You can imagine my surprise. It seemed odd at the time, but the salary offer was fair and met my expectations, and the benefits were very attractive, so I didn’t question it too much. Soon after, I began the process of hiring my own staff person, and I would learn the reason why there was no negotiating. 

It’s About Social Justice
At the heart of our work is social justice. We are a public charter school system in Houston, Texas, with campuses in many of the city’s most underserved communities. Equity is the core of who we are and what we do. Ninety-seven percent of our student population is Black or Latino. We believe that long-standing systems have gotten in the way of the success of these populations, so we are honored to serve our students and families by providing a free, high-quality education and creating paths to opportunity. 

We also believe in “walking the talk” at YES Prep. I visited with our managing director of talent, Akeia King, to learn more about our salary practices. She started, “We cannot be a social justice organization if we are not thinking about our own teams and the way that inequities show up and exist in our staff.” 

Posted Salary Ranges
To start, all YES Prep job postings are listed with salary ranges, which is managed by our talent department. First, they look at external data sources to determine the proper salary ranges according to the market. Then, the talent team will determine what salary range ensures internal equity by looking at how the salary range falls among similar level positions across the organization.

Once a candidate is selected for a position, the talent team—not the hiring manager or hiring department—will evaluate the candidate’s profile to calculate a salary offer within the posted range. Factors considered include the role and years of experience. What is not considered is demographic data or where the candidate attended school. 

No Negotiation Policy
Aside from being an uncomfortable experience for both the hiring manager and the job candidate, the dance of salary negotiation is inherently inequitable. This is why YES Prep has adopted a “no negotiation” policy. 

Some groups are less apt to or adept at negotiating—mostly women and especially women of color. It is not equitable to receive a lower salary offer than a comparable candidate, simply because you did not know how to ask for more. 

Salary setting within departments is also not equitable. What happens when one department has more money available in its budget than another? You may end up with two people in comparable roles making very different salaries. 

Annual Equity Reviews
The work toward salary equity at YES Prep doesn’t end with the hiring process. Each year, our talent team conducts an equity review of salaries. They begin by pulling together all the salary data across the organization and then look for inequities. Talent considers years of experience in their role compared to peers. If a disparity is found, a salary adjustment is made for the staff member. I can share that there is no more fun conversation with a direct report than telling them they are receiving an unexpected salary bump. 

Advice for Women of Color
Before concluding my conversation with Akeia, I asked for her advice to fellow women of color who are navigating the job search process. I especially thought of those not working with an organization that has equitable salary practices. She said that upon receiving a salary offer, don’t be afraid to ask if this is absolutely the highest offer they can make. If the organization cannot meet your well-researched salary requirements, don’t be afraid to walk away. The organization may not be the right fit for you. As a member of AFP, you have access to AAUW’s online negotiation workshops to help you better advocate for yourself through this challenging process. 

Since working at YES Prep and being involved with the Women’s Impact Initiative, I have learned a lot about equity and how I have been complicit in furthering inequitable practices. Not knowing better, I used to ask—and was also asked when I was a candidate—the question, “How much were you earning at your last employer?” It never occurred to me that if I was low-balled at the last organization I worked for, I would only get a bump to my previously too-low salary. And as a woman of color, it’s very likely I spent years earning less than my counterparts. 

Let’s learn and do better. Let’s ask questions and know our worth. Let’s demand fair salaries and better hiring practices for all.

Editor's Note: AFP and Salary Transparency
AFP remains committed to gender and racial pay equity in the fundraising profession and believes salary transparency is one of the main factors in closing the wage gap. As such, last November, AFP made the decision to have all nonprofits that use the AFP Career Center include a salary range for each listing. This policy also applies to internal jobs at AFP Global. As we continue to think about equity in our organizations, it’s important to consider how salary disclosure helps move us closer to being an equitable profession for all. In addition to the AAUW workshops mentioned above, check out these articles and resources from AFP to help you better understand the impacts of pay inequity and how to navigate your own salary negotiations:

•    “Ask For What You’re Worth” by Diane Lebson, CFRE, Advancing Philanthropy, April 2020
•    Salary Negotiation Strategies With Diane Lebson, CFRE, and Christian Murphy, CFRE
•    Women’s Pay Equity and Collective Advocacy by Yolanda F. Johnson: Part I and Part II

Author Information

JWJennifer Wijangco, CFRE (she, her, hers) is director of advancement at YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas.


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