Pay rises for all Pittsburgh-area nonprofit leaders, but men earn more

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Despite the sluggish economy and government cuts to many programs, budgets and salaries for executive directors at a sampling of nonprofits in the Pittsburgh region rose last year. Yet there remains a significant pay gap between men and women who hold the executive director jobs at nonprofits.

According to a survey conducted by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University and the United Way of Allegheny County, the average salary for male executive directors at nonprofits last year was $126,690 while female executive directors earned $94,232.

The figures translate to women earning 74 cents on the dollar, down from 75 cents when the survey was last conducted in 2010.

"It wasn't great to see the pay gap go down by a penny," said Peggy Morrison Outon, executive director of the Bayer Center. The center is currently engaged in a research project to determine why women's earnings lag men's and how to close the gender wage gap.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said all working women earned an average 82.2 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2011, while in Pennsylvania women's average earnings dropped to 81.6 cents on the dollar.

In the local nonprofit sector, the clear majority of workers are female. The Bayer Center estimates that of the 300,000 employed by nonprofits in Allegheny and the surrounding counties, 225,000 are women.

In the recent survey, the average salary for all nonprofit executive directors was $105,808, up 3.6 percent from $102,125 in 2010. The average salary for female executive directors rose by 5.5 percent from the 2010 average while male directors' was up 6.8 percent.

The survey has been conducted bi-annually since 2000. One factor that contributes to the consistent gap between men and women's pay is that the largest nonprofits with the largest budgets typically employ men as executive directors, said Ms. Outon.

Among the respondents, 2012 operating budgets ranged from $50,000 to more than $50 million with the median budget at $1.73 million, up from $1.61 million in 2010. Of those surveyed, 37 agencies did not increase their budget at all.

For the 153 groups that participated, employment totaled roughly 12,300 workers who provided a range of services and programs including social support, education, child care, basic material needs, counseling and wellness, economic development, culture and the arts.

An issue the survey didn't shed enough light on, said Robert Nelkin, president of the United Way, is how front-line workers at regional nonprofits were faring as a result of the economic recession. "Specifically, how has the decline in government funding and charitable donations during these tough times impacted those workers?"

Higher salaries for executive directors may indicate that though nonprofits are experiencing declines in government funding and charitable donations, "They are increasing wages and compensation to keep their top talent and cutting other positions and services," Mr. Nelkin speculated.

For the most recent survey, the United Way requested a question about whether any workers were eligible for public assistance benefits. At least some full-time employees qualified for assistance at 16 percent of the nonprofits surveyed.

Mr. Nelkin was not surprised. "We already knew that low-wage workers supplement their wages with public benefits in order to pay for the basics such as utilities, housing, child care and health care."

Overall, the results closely mirror trends in the for-profit and government sectors, said Ms. Outon.

For instance, 37 percent of nonprofits surveyed said they cover the full expense of employee health care, down from 46 percent who paid the full freight in 2010 and down from 59 percent when the survey launched in 2002. "The fact that more and more costs are passed through to the employee I know is going on everywhere throughout the workforce," she said.

The Bayer Center-United Way survey results were based on responses from 153 organizations, a relatively small sampling considering there were 10,000 nonprofits in southwestern Pennsylvania invited to participate. Allegheny County organizations accounted for 121 of that total, with the rest in surrounding counties.

Still, Mr. Nelkin believes the results paint a fair picture.

Many nonprofits may not respond, said Ms. Outon, because the survey asks detailed questions about wages, program budgets and employee benefits. "Maybe they look at it and don't know the answers to those questions or they don't like the answers to those questions."

For survey results, go to the United Way's web site at

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Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.


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