The Art of the Salary Negotiation

6 minute read

So you’re looking to pursue a career in the charity sector. You want to give back to the community and do something meaningful for the world, and if that means making slightly less than your friends in the for-profit sector, then so be it.

But that doesn’t mean that pay isn’t important. You may be trading a higher salary for a more fulfilling career, but you still need to be able to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. And as you probably know by now, non-profits don’t exactly pay top of the market. A low starting salary might put you off from pursuing a job you’re truly passionate about.

That’s why it’s important to know your worth. You don’t have to accept the first salary that’s offered to you—it’s all in the art of negotiation. Let’s take a look at the best way to bargain a better salary when you’re offered a job in a charity or non-profit.

The Art of the Salary Negotiation

Understand that ‘need’ isn’t ‘greed’

Here’s the thing⁠—you probably got sucked into a mindset that if you want to work at a non-profit, you might as well work for food. After all, you don’t want to steal more money away from the cause, right? Wrong.

First, you deserve a fair salary that’s appropriate to your experience and the value you’ll bring to the organisation. Second, if you want to help others to the best of your ability, you need to take care of yourself first.

So⁠—it’s OK to want a good salary. You just need to know how to negotiate it.


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Make an inventory of your contributions

Something about you sparked their interest—they wouldn’t be offering you the job if it hadn’t. Maybe you’ve got the right experience or your skillset is just a bit more appealing than the other candidates. Start by figuring out what you’ll bring to the table. It’ll add a bit of gravitas and weight to the negotiation.

Ask yourself:

  • How much money did you help raise in your previous company? (Can’t put the finger on the exact number? Estimate.)
  • How many people did you help? (Same here.)
  • How many employees did you train?
  • Were there any projects you spearheaded?
  • Did you introduce any processes that benefited your department?
  • Did you influence any major changes at your last organisation?
  • What additional responsibilities did you take that went beyond your job description?

Cold hard numbers will always be your friend in this situation. Don’t just say you raised a lot of money, tell them how you surpassed your fundraising target by 118%. Once you have facts and figures at your fingertips, it’ll heighten your chances of getting a killer starting salary.

The Art of the Salary Negotiation

Arm yourself with data

There’s money on the table. You just have to ask for it. But first, you need hard data to support your request. Otherwise, you won’t feel comfortable asking for a higher salary let alone push back when the hiring manager questions it.

In other words, do your research. Find out what the average salary for your role in the charity sector would be. Then compare that the for-profit sector. Although most charities can’t necessarily match that, it gives you a benchmark to draw from.

  • Take advantage of salary estimate apps. Check Glassdoor and PayScale to see what non-profit people in your position make.
  • Reach out to recruiters. If you’re in touch with one or two recruiters on LinkedIn, ask about a salary range.
  • Talk to peers, friends, and family. It might give you the extra edge, especially if some of them work at a non-profit.


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Make a move

So far so good. You know you deserve a solid salary, and you know it’s OK to want one. Now—how do you make the ask in an interview?

  • Don’t jump the gun. Wait until after the hiring manager brings up the salary topic. It’ll help you avoid looking greedy.
  • Ask the hiring manager to give you a range. It’ll give you a better understanding of how big the pie is.
  • Lay out your case. Take a leap of faith and prove you deserve a good salary.
  • Don’t give up. If you get a no, all is not lost. Non-profits usually offer extensive benefits packages compared to for-profits. So, look at the overall offer before making a decision.

Of course, phrasing is always important. Choosing your words correctly can make a difference. Here’s an example you can draw from:

While salary isn’t the most important thing for me, I need to feel I’ll be fairly valued for my work at this organisation. In my last position, I:

  • Built relationships with government officials and business owners, which helped secure £40,000 in funds.
  • Presented evidence-based training on preventive health services for 250+ students.
  • Instituted a lead-generating Facebook contest that got nearly 1000 engagements and saw a 75% uplift in donations that month.

I believe that my particular skill set and experience will not only benefit your organisation, but I think that they also prove that I’m the best candidate for the job.

Considering the average salary for [job title] in the sector is £XX,XXX, I think that a yearly salary in the amount of [£XX, XXX] will be suitable for what I’ll bring to the table.

Remember, rejecting your salary request doesn’t mean they don’t think you’re worth less. Sometimes it comes down to external factors like funding. But hey, it never hurts to ask, right?

The Art of the Salary Negotiation

So, What Do You Think?

There you have it. A whopping four tips on how to max out your chances of getting an amazing starting salary at a non-profit.

Now—what’s your experience negotiating a salary? How did you approach the topic in the interview? Share your thoughts in the comments below and find out what jobs are available (and what salaries are on offer) in the charity sector today.

Max Woolf

Max Woolf is a writer at Zety. He is passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In this spare time, Max enjoys biking and travelling to European countries.

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