Julie Cohen was shocked that a post for a job opening included the salary for the position — a rare upfront disclosure in the nonprofit sector.

Usually, she’d go through the application and interview process before, at the very end, the salary was revealed.

“There’s nothing more frustrating,” she said, than realizing the pay was too low to make ends meet.

Now, Minnesota nonprofit leaders are flipping that process, including salaries in all job postings. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Pollen and Springboard for the Arts — all three of which have the most popular nonprofit job boards in the state — announced they’ll start requiring pay on postings.

“It forces organizations to be more transparent,” said Cohen, who landed a job five years ago at Pollen, a media arts organization in Minneapolis where she manages its jobs board.

The change is part of a broader push nationally in the sector to be more transparent and ensure that compensation is equitable, helping to narrow pay gaps for women and people of color.

“This is one step we can take,” Cohen added.

Nonprofit pay has been rising in Minnesota, which has more than 9,000 nonprofits. In 2019, a record 391,000 nonprofit workers made up 14% of the state’s workforce, surpassing the government sector for the first time in the number of employees and share of Minnesota’s workforce.

Nonprofit salaries matched government pay for the first time in 2017. But unlike government jobs, nonprofits don’t have to report salaries publicly beyond top paid leaders in federal tax forms.

“I think there’s a hunger and an appetite for this in our sector,” said John Wurm, the membership and communications director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

Tuesday’s announcement comes at a time when nonprofits are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonprofits lost an estimated $1 billion in revenue just in April because of canceled fundraising events, programs and other cuts. About a third of all nonprofit workers in Minnesota have filed for unemployment as nonprofits have issued furloughs, layoffs and reduced hours.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which operates the largest nonprofit jobs board in the state, posted about 1,400 jobs on average per month before the pandemic. Now, that number has slipped to about 650 jobs a month.

With more people looking for nonprofit jobs, though, it’s a good time for nonprofits to be more transparent about pay, said Andy Sturdevant, who manages the creative jobs board at the Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul. He added that he hopes it inspires nonprofits that post job openings on their own website or businesses in the private sector to also add salary information to job postings.

“I hope it’s a model for other organizations,” he said. “This is a conversation I think is happening across a lot of different sectors.”

Rising wages

In 2019, the average nonprofit annual wage in Minnesota — excluding much larger health care nonprofits and higher education institutions — was $55,182, compared with an average for-profit wage of $60,342 and a government wage of $54,682.

Nonprofit pay has been on the rise in recent years. Factoring in larger health care and universities and colleges, nonprofit pay surpassed the for-profit sector for the first time in 2017 before dipping back down in 2018.

In 2018, women made up 74% of nonprofit employees compared with 60% of government workers and 45% of for-profit employees. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits doesn’t track data on the race of nonprofit employees, but the sector has been known to be largely white, especially in leadership roles.

On the council’s job board, about half of all nonprofits were already including pay on job postings before Tuesday’s announcement, Wurm said, but smaller nonprofits were especially wary of posting that information, fearing they couldn’t compete with salaries at larger organizations or the private sector.

Wurm said the conversation with job applicants about pay has to come up eventually, so posting it upfront saves time for both nonprofits and job seekers.

“It’s a great matchmaking tool,” Wurm said. “Our goal all along has always been to make the nonprofit sector, instead of the sector of last-resort for hiring and for job seekers … that sector of first resort — the place that skilled professionals want to go.”