Negotiating While Nonprofit

I talk a lot about negotiation – the science and art of asking for more. It’s one of my favorite topics to study and geek out about, and it’s one of the fastest avenues for women to push back on the gender wage gap. I mean, we’re waiting for Congress to mandate equal pay for equal work, too. But in the meantime, asking for more is a great skill to develop.

At almost every workshop on negotiation I host, I hear from women who are in the public or nonprofit sector tell me: this is a non-starter. “I’ve seen the budget,” they might say, “and there’s no more money to go around.” Or perhaps, they’re tasked with fundraising for their nonprofit, so they especially know what money is coming in (or isn’t), and it’s not an easy position to be in. But I’m here to say that negotiation is possible in the nonprofit sector.

In fact, I’d argue that when you get a job offer nowadays, not negotiating almost makes you look a little green, a tad inexperienced, or timid when it comes to advocating for yourself. It’s not a stretch for an employer to think that you’d be timid advocating for their initiatives as well.

So when you get a job offer in the nonprofit or public sector, even if you know funds are tight, I urge to come to that conversation ready with a counter-offer.

You really never know what they have budgeted unless you ask. And once you have, let’s say, for instance, that they can’t offer you any more in terms of salary. Consider pivoting to these alternatives:

  • A signing bonus – because even if they can’t increase the annual line-item costs for you, perhaps they can bump it up by a few thousand bucks in a one-time bonus.
  • A moving bonus – often times I see nonprofits really respond to need. So if you’re moving for a job, do the math and present the number you believe you’ll need to shell out to make this position possible. Don’t hesitate to share that with them and ask for coverage for those costs.
  • A performance-based bonus – because if you’re directly contributing to bringing in more funds to your nonprofit, perhaps you can negotiate a commission-style bonus to incentivize your work further and tie your pay to your performance.

And even if there isn’t any more money available for your salary or bonuses, you can still ask for an annual professional development fund to further your education and skill set, or the freedom to take on part-time consulting on the side for added income, or flexibility in terms of time you’re expected to be in the office.

If you’re made to feel bad for asking for more, or your dedication to the job is called into question, make of note of that red flag. Because this whole concept that you have to martyr yourself for the job is short-sighted, and it might be a sign of a toxic workplace you won’t be able to thrive in for the long-term. But if you find yourself feeling judged while negotiating, tie it back to the bigger picture by saying something like, “I’m so excited about this opportunity, I want to make sure that I’m setting myself up for long-term success here, and that means having my bases covered so I can show up and deliver at full capacity.”

And I definitely want to hear from you if you put these boss tips to use in your life. Hit me up on social media at @emiliearies and @bosseduporg, leave a comment at below, and as always, weigh in on the conversation in the Bossed Up Courage Community on Facebook. I can’t wait to hear what you think!


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