Momentum toward a more equitable workforce

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In the nonprofit sector, we are constantly fighting for the dignity of those seeking support and advocating for their economic mobility.  But how often do we fight the same fight for our own staff members? To unravel a structure as oppressive as economic injustice, we first have to be introspective and model the change we want to see in the world. Today, many in the nonprofit sector in Memphis, Tenn. are being woefully underpaid, and we at Momentum Nonprofit Partners recently made our stance clear. 

Kevin Dean, Chief Executive Officer, <a href="https://momentumnonprofitpartners.org/">Momentum Nonprofit Partners</a>

Effective July 1, 2019, Momentum Nonprofit Partners no longer accepts for posting on our Nonprofit Job Board openings for any position paying less than the equivalent of $15 per hour or $31,200 per yearAdditionally, job postings will require hourly wage and salary information. As a training center for nonprofit professionals in Memphis, Tenn., we made this decision to recognize through action that they deserve competitive compensation.

To expand on our position to help shift the pay paradigm, here is a short list for nonprofit leaders to move toward action:

Acknowledge that a living wage is a human rights priority

We know that paying a fair wage is not a new or emerging fight, but it is one that needs to be accelerated up the priority list, for one reason: to acknowledge every person as human. As leaders, we are accountable to our teams to only perpetuate systems and opportunities that are equitable. We cannot be complicit in perpetuating the scarcity mindset that often leads to low wages for employees. Nonprofit professionals work diligently to combat the struggles faced by those that seek support and we can do better to ensure that they are compensated appropriately.

Conduct research to determine whether employees are receiving fair pay

To say that you are unaware of a discrepancy in pay is not a valid reason to economically deprive employees. There is no longer a need to have taken a college-level stats class to assess whether your organization is paying a fair wage for work performed. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a Living Wage Calculator that estimates the cost of living in your community or region based on typical expenses. The tool helps individuals, communities, and employers determine a local wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living. Start there. Irrespective of where you sit as a leader in an organization, recognize that affording an employee base compensation to provide for themselves and their families is a function of leadership.

Don’t allow employees to be martyrs for their passion

The nonprofit sector is driven by passion for the work, and its professionals often feel compelled to serve. Nonprofit employees know that their jobs probably won’t have the luster of their for-profit counterparts. However, professionals in the sector should not have to compromise their own peace of mind and financial stability while responding to the community’s most complex challenges. We show up to do the work as a duty to contributing to the greater good.

Now imagine if those already committed to the cause were compensated fairly: amplified impact for your organization – research proves it. Our work is urgently important, as we are saving lives and building better communities; as leaders, let’s take control of how we show up for our employees, in such a substantial way as equitable pay.

Paying a competitive wage not only provides a better life for nonprofit employees, but it also benefits the operations of the organization. Retaining an employee under respectable conditions actually costs far less than constant recruitment and training, which preserves institutional knowledge, continuity of programming, and overall impact. We hope that these changes will prompt dialogue within your organizations, with your boards, staff, and executive leadership.

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