ATC’s mission is to empower young people experiencing housing instability on their paths to greater happiness and stability. I’ve never been part of an organization that cares for its clients quite like ATC. However, I think it is safe to say that we fell short of providing the same quality of care for our dedicated employees who advance our mission every day.
This is a common nonprofit trap. We are so laser-focused on our mission that we neglect the needs of our staff. Upon becoming Executive Director in 2019, I made a commitment to leading ATC in creating an organizational culture that better cares for its team. We took initial steps like immediate compensation increases, adding wellness funds, and when Covid-19 hit, we began to pay a majority of commuting costs for our employees. We have continued to sustain all of these additional benefits but knew we needed to do much more.
At an event last November, we shared the statistic that $102,450 is considered “low income” for a single adult in San Francisco but the average entry-level nonprofit salary is only $46,479. It’s crystal clear that the social sector and its workforce are devalued. We say that we value those who care for our most vulnerable, but do we really?
We balk at the idea of paying these nonprofit workers a living wage, giving them bonuses, or even paying them a salary that would enable them to afford a home or have a lifestyle similar to those who are working in the corporate sector. ATC has drawn a line in the sand and is committing to doing better for our employees.
Today, I’m excited to share highlights of our new compensation plan and the culmination of three years of efforts.
- We have established pay equity across all departments. Employees with similar experience and skill sets will make comparable salaries regardless of department. We have eliminated pay disparities that have historically been most felt by women and people of color. For example, the nonprofit sector median salary for entry-level “direct service” positions (disproportionately held by BIPOC) is 13% lower than in similar fundraising positions (disproportionately held by white identified employees). This disparity only increases in management positions (Program Directors make 34% less on average than Development Directors). This disparity will not exist at ATC.
- ATC has committed to paying for commute costs (not just providing a pre-tax benefit). We know that living in the Bay Area is expensive and that people who make lower salaries often have to commute from further away in order to make ends meet. We believe that commuting to work should not be cost-prohibitive. That’s why we are reimbursing staff for a majority of the expenses they incur getting to and from work.
- Currently, the average salary at ATC is $76,088 compared to $65,240 in 2019. With the implementation of the compensation plan, ATC’s average salary will increase to over $78,000. For staff members that have been with ATC since 2019 or before, each has received promotions over the past two years and their salaries have increased by an average of 33%.
- ATC has implemented more aggressive compensation increases for entry-level positions so that historically underpaid positions and staff members more expeditiously move to higher wages.
- As of January of 2022, ATC established a minimum pay of $24/hr, including for interns.
- We will review our compensation plan every two years to stay competitive with the market and take inflation into account.
Clear Pathways for Growth:
- We have prioritized pay transparency for staff and removed the “guesswork” around compensation and potential biases in increases. We’ve developed salary ranges for each position using market data from the Fair Pay for Northern California Nonprofits Report. We’ve also created steps that increase compensation for tenure and the acquisition of additional skills, applicable education, and certifications or licensures.
- ATC has clearly outlined pathways for growth, including into leadership positions, for every position at the organization.
The nonprofit sector must break the cycle of devaluing its workforce. Experiencing financial hardship should not be par for the course as a nonprofit professional. The tech industry values innovation and hard work (the average annual salary for an entry-level Software Engineer in SF is $100,286 as a side). Nonprofits should also value the hard work of their employees, not to mention their emotional labor.
This is just the beginning of ATC’s path to greater equity and an organizational culture that values the efforts of its staff! We hope to be part of a larger movement to better care for those who care for our community. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our efforts. If you have ideas/want to be a part of our journey to increase equity at ATC and in our sector, reach out to me at [email protected].
 Report from HUD on California – Page 3, San Francisco, CA HUD Metro FMR Area, “Low Income” for a 1-Person Household
 From a ZipRecruiter salary report pulled in November 2021. This number changes. You can find the current report for San Francisco here and Oakland here.