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Fall Forward

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  • | 6:00 p.m. October 23, 2008
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Fall Forward

For-profit companies aren't the only entities that look to autumn as the economic forecasting season. Nonprofits on the Gulf coast are peering into the next year, too.

by Mark Gordon | Managing Editor

Tom Randle, the top executive at one of the largest credit unions on the Gulf Coast, was at a loss a few years ago when figuring out how to set the salary and benefits for a key new hire.

The job, however, wasn't for the institution he overseas, the Sarasota Coastal Credit Union. Instead, it was to serve as executive director of the Sarasota Coalition Against Substance Abuse, a nonprofit organization that advocates for substance abuse prevention and treatment. As chairman of the coalition's board of directors, Randle was essentially running blind when figuring out salaries, benefits and other integral aspects of the organization's top job.

"There aren't a lot of metrics out there you could use," says Randle. "It's more of a seat of the pants thing."

Randle's experience isn't isolated. The numerous senior executives on the Gulf Coast who double as board chairs and committee members of nonprofit groups have also faced similar challenges. It stems from a combination of working in a field outside their domain and then, when getting there, realizing there is a lack of concrete local data on everything from turnover ratios to salary comparisons.

But now a new comprehensive report, one of very few of its kind in Florida, is out to help nonprofit board leaders like Randle. The survey, officially known as the 2008 Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Report, is an extensive compilation and analysis put together by the Nonprofit Resource Center of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, itself a nonprofit help-center for other nonprofits. The Nonprofit Resource Center released a similar report in 2006.

"This report really helps small- and medium-size nonprofits that don't have an HR director to chase down this stuff," says Graham Strange, a retired telecommunications executive who was part of the 20-person volunteer staff that put together the survey. "They've never had something like this to compare things."

While the report only studies nonprofits in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the information could be useful to executives and board members in other Gulf Coast locales. All the more so because survey volunteers say regional cooperation and combinations among nonprofits will be a big trend in 2009, an answer to the turbulent economy. "As things in the economy get more tight," says Lloyd Sidwell, another volunteer for the survey, "we will see more regionalization of nonprofits."

For instance, the Manasota ARC and the Pinellas ARC chapters, which provide help to people with disabilities, recently combined forces. Many youth-oriented groups on the Gulf Coast are also pooling resources.

But the main focus of the Nonprofit Resource Center's survey is to provide salary and benefit data. The survey was compiled from responses from 101 nonprofit organizations that are based in Sarasota or Manatee counties. Some highlights include:

• The average annual salary for a chief executive/executive director ranged from $46,500 for nonprofits with an operating budget of less than $250,000 to $179,000 for organizations with a budget greater than $10 million;

• Executives working in health/wellness nonprofits had the largest cumulative two-year increases in average salary, while executives in the human services field had the smallest cumulative two-year salary gains;

• Organizations with an annual budget between $250,000 and $500,000 reported a 33% turnover in the CEO/executive director position, while organizations with a budget of less than $250,000 reported a 25% turnover in that position;

• About one-third of the respondents, 29%, are forecasting a salary increase of 3% to 4% for their organization's top executives in 2009, down from 34% that projected that increase in 2006. Another 29% of the respondents are projecting salary raises of less than 3% next year;

• A majority of the respondents, 89%, reported using individual performance as a primary criteria for determining salary increases. Almost half of the respondents, 44%, reported using the 2006 survey as guide in determining employee salaries.


Businesses. Nonprofit Resource Center of the Community Foundation of Sarasota

Industry. Nonprofits

Key. Survey aims to help board members and directors of nonprofits set salary and benefits for executives.


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