Looking for Development Director Job? Don’t Expect to Earn Over $40K!

Sheep dog covering her eyes with her paw

The 2015 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report is out, and the results are, shall we say, depressing.

In organizations with a budget of $250,000 or less, the average salary for the top development position is $37,993. In the bigger-budget organizations, it goes up by a measly $10K or so, to $48,775.

Worse yet, there’s a significant gender gap. The female development directors earn less than the males, and there are fewer of them to begin with.

To put the typical development director’s income level into perspective, let’s consider whether this person can buy a home in the United States. The median home price right now is, according to Zillow, $180,800. As a general rule, a person can buy a home worth three times his or her income (using a mortgage loan). So your typical development director could buy a home worth $113,979. Good luck saving the extra $66,000-plus on an income that’s unlikely to exceed $50,000 per year! And that’s not even taking into account that in many urban areas of the U.S., a halfway decent home will cost you over a million dollars.

Or, let’s have a look at the U.S. poverty guidelines. For a family of four, the poverty line is $24,250. And not all development directors at small to mid-size organizations are actually making the average $37,993. In fact, the report shows, 10% of them are making around $18,512, and 25% of them are making  $25,150. That’s called poverty.

We all knew already that nonprofit fundraising was a serious labor of love, especially since it’s a job that often goes unappreciated by peers and the public. It involves, after all, that dirty word, “money.” And there never seems to be enough money to support every nonprofit in the United States.

However, every donor or foundation staffer who ever complained that nonprofits should be plowing almost every cent of their (oops, sorry, gotta use that word again) money into direct services to clients or their cause should consider that the development director’s salary is, technically, “overhead.” Yet pathetic salary is being paid to the person largely responsible for ensuring that the organization can keep its doors open.