Gender Gap in Nonprofit CEO Salaries Persists, Study Finds

For the fourteenth year in a row, median compensation for female CEOs of nonprofit organizations lagged that of their male counterparts, an annual study from GuideStar finds.

Based on GuideStar's database of digitized IRS Form 990s filed by 501(c) organizations, the report, 2014 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report, found that, on average, female CEOs in 2012 made 11 percent less than their male counterparts at nonprofits with budgets of $250,000 or less, and 23 percent less at those with budgets between $25 million and $50 million. The study also found that only 17 percent of nonprofits with budgets of more than $50 million were led by women — up a single percentage point since 2002 — in contrast to organizations with budgets of $1 million or less, the majority of which have female CEOs.

Overall, the median increase in incumbent CEO compensation improved from 2 percent in 2011 to 2.2 percent in 2012, but remained well below the 2008 level of 4 percent or more. Increases in compensation ranged from 4 percent at the largest organizations, where the median salary was $444,108 in 2012, to 1 percent (and a median salary of $44,806) at organizations with budgets of less than $250,000.

In addition, the report found that health and science organizations continued to pay the highest overall median salaries, while arts, religion, and animal welfare-related organizations paid the lowest. Of the top twenty metropolitan areas included in the study, Washington, D.C., had the highest overall median salary for the ninth consecutive year, while Portland, Oregon, had the lowest for the second straight year — although CEOs in Oakland, California, were paid the least in terms of purchasing power adjusted for cost of living.

"In 2012 there was a greater median increase in nonprofit CEO compensation compared to 2011, which is possibly a sign that the economic conditions started to improve for nonprofits," said Chuck McLean, vice president of research for GuideStar, who authors the Nonprofit Compensation Report series. "Still, the median increase is only about half what it was before 2008. We also continue to see a nonprofit compensation gender gap....All of this tells us that the social sector has a long way to go to meet gender equity in executive compensation."