Midsize Nonprofits Show Greatest Progress Closing CEO Gender Pay and Leadership Gaps


by Michael Theis

Nonprofits with annual budgets of $25 million to $50 million are making the greatest progress toward closing the gender pay gap for CEOs, according to the latest “GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report.”

The median salary increased for female CEOs at those charities by 3.1 percent from 2016 to 2017, compared with 0.1% for men. That group also saw the proportion of female CEOs grow from 20 percent to 30 percent from 2005 to 2017.

However, other data in the report indicates that progress in addressing gender disparities in pay has slowed or even reversed at most other organizations. For example, women CEOs at nonprofits with budgets of $10 million to $20 million saw their pay increase 1 percent fro 2016 to 2017, compared with 2 percent for men.

Median pay for female nonprofit CEOs remained lower than for their male peers at all levels, with the gap remaining the highest at groups with large budgets. Female CEOs at nonprofits with annual budgets exceeding $50 million earned, on average, 20 percent less than their male colleagues. For organizations with budgets of $250,000 or less, female nonprofit workers earned about 5 percent less than their male colleagues.

The number of women serving as CEOs of nonprofits of all sizes has increased since 2005. However the percentage of women nonprofit CEOs varies greatly across groups of different sizes. Organizations with smaller budgets have a greater proportion of female CEOs than larger nonprofits do.

Static Numbers

For instance, at the smallest organizations examined in the report, those with annual operating budgets of $250,000 or less, 58 percent of were led by women. At charities with budgets exceeding $50 million, women accounted for only 23 percent of CEOs.

“We talk about this issue a lot in the media, but we are clearly not seeing changes happening,” said Holly Ivel, senior director of business development and data services at Candid. “The percentage of women leading large organizations continues to be static.”

The GuideStar findings are in line with a recent Chronicle data study, which found that America’s biggest charities continue to be overwhelmingly led by white men.

Other data from the report:

  • Incumbent male nonprofit CEOs saw larger pay gains than women in nearly every budget grouping analyzed. For instance, incumbent female CEOs at nonprofits with operating budgets of less than $250,000 saw median compensation increase by 0.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, while their male peers saw median compensation increase by 1.3 percent.
  • Leaders at science and technology research institutes reported the largest median CEO compensation in 2017 at $157,700. Religious nonprofits reported the smallest median CEO salaries, roughly $56,000.
  • Over all, median compensation grew more slowly in 2017 than in 2016, with the CEOs in most budget categories seeing median increases well below the rate of inflation.

GuideStar and the Foundation Center recently merged to create a new organization called Candid. However, the annual salary study continues to be marketed as the “GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report. “