Is Your Top Professional Salary Fair and Justifiable?

by Natasha Dresner, Mentor, JCamp 180

If you are a top paid professional at your camp, don't you want to know if your salary is fair? And if you are a board member at that camp, shouldn't you know if it is fair, too?

Why is it important? Well, we know why it's important to the paid professional - everyone wants and deserves to be fairly compensated for their work. Therefore, it's in the interest of the professional to stay on top of this matter. If the compensation is fair and competitive, it makes you feel good about your job and your employer and, if it's not, it allows you to substantiate your case for a raise. 

Why Should Salary be Important to Your Board?

Sure, comparable salary data is clearly important to the paid professional. But why should your Board care about salary information?

One reason is to be able to attract and hire the right professional and then be able to retain him or her by offering fair and competitive compensation. Let's be clear here that compensation and salary aren't the same. Compensation includes any payment made by an employer to an employee for their rendered services (e.g. a bonus).

Additionally, the compensation of your top professional has a direct impact on the rest of the staff and their compensation packages, which can affect the camp's ability to hire and retain great staff. 

The Board has to be able to justify what the camp pays its top professional to the rest of the world, including the IRS. Your top professional's compensation is public information. Anyone can go on a watchdog website like GuideStar, pull up your IRS Form 990, and see if the compensation for your key employees is "reasonable." The IRS defines reasonable compensation as "the value that would ordinarily be paid for like services by like enterprises under like circumstances." If the compensation is deemed in "excess," it can result in serious penalties and even a revocation of the camp's tax-exempt status. Additionally, it can damage your camp's reputation and - as a result - your ability to enroll and fundraise.

Lastly, it would be more professional if the Board could calmly and logically substantiate a refusal or a counteroffer for an unreasonable salary request or raise.  Sound fair?

Where to Find Salary Data?

GuideStar is a great resource for salary data for top nonprofit professionals. However, due to the timeline by which 990s are filed, you may not see the most current salary information there.  Instead, if you want to find out what other nonprofit overnight Jewish Camps are paying their top professionals, check out the 2015 Jewish Nonprofit Overnight Camp Top Management Salary study, which was recently released by JData. This is a good starting point for your internal conversations about salary.