How do I ask for raise at my nonprofit when we're broke?
December 15, 2017 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Not only do I want a raise and promotion at my nonprofit that is struggling financially, I know the money can ostensibly come from some bloat that we have with dead-weight colleagues. But how to make this case without throwing people under the bus?

All of the advice that comes with asking for raises and promotions always say to talk about what's good about you and not what's bad about others. Totally get it, and I'm absolutely 100% prepared to do that. The newish CEO (4 months) is a fan of mine and has mentioned that "I could go anywhere". And he knows that he has to make some big changes with regards to structure and the like if we're to move forward as an organization.

We're running a deficit. We're in not-so-good financial straits, and that's partially because we have folks who have worked here for over 20 years that haven't learned new skills or been even tested to see if they could sink or swim if they had been forced to learn new skills. There's definitely room to shed and rearrange things and therefore money. I don't want to mention that there are "those people" that are affecting our bottom line, but I am anticipating push back on an ask for a raise because we don't have the funds.

I've also read in previous questions that" Your manager doesn't actually care why you want a salary increase, just that you do." Is that even true? Does it apply to my case?

How do I best make my case for a raise, other than pointing to everything I'm doing great at and helping to grow the org? Should I make actual recommendations for restructuring? How do I do that gracefully?

Thanks, team.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
There's definitely room to shed and rearrange things and therefore money.
First, that is not real money until the reorganization and related firing actually happen and then they have to account for the costs of severance and replacement hires before they have anything left over to pay you with.
Second, if the organization is running a deficit, the first thing they will want to do with the extra money freed up from any reorganization is to reduce the deficit, not raise salaries.
There is just no good way to say, "fire the deadbeats and use the money to pay me"

I think your better strategy is to have a one-on-one meeting to talk about the future of the organization and your role in the changes that are coming. I would signal that you are looking for a raise but in the context of how your role and organization will be changing - not something you expect to happen tomorrow.
posted by metahawk at 11:15 PM on December 15, 2017 [21 favorites]

Agree with Metahawk. Do not link the two issues. Any pitch for an increase needs to reflect your own contribution, including increased duties, not what you see as the relative merit of your colleagues.
posted by rpfields at 11:29 PM on December 15, 2017

When you ask for a raise, it’s your job to pitch yourself as deserving of one, and your employer’s job to find the money if they agree. It would be really inappropriate and presumptuous to do that part for them, especially if your solution is to suggest firing coworkers.

As a manager (though not in the nonprofit world) I can tell you that the budget for next year truly is a fixed and finite thing. Firing someone now wouldn’t mean we’d immediately have a surplus— on the contrary, hiring someone at market rate is an expense, as is having a vacant position. And we never want to eliminate positions, or we’d never get approved for that position again and we’d be understaffed.

One of my team just asked me for a raise on top of their annual increase at their review, and I had to say no, purely for budget reasons— we just aren’t in the position to offer higher salary right now. And though I didn’t tell them this, we do have to consider liability, and salary parity for everyone else with the same or higher title (can’t have a junior associate making as much as a senior associate, can’t pay a man significantly more for the same job a woman is doing, etc.) If this person had “helpfully” suggested I restructure the entire org and redo the budget to find money just for them, and do so by firing their coworkers, I would not have received that well.

In my org, if I fired the lower-producer who’s been there for 30 years, I’d have to pay their replacement at least 50% more. I’m sure others on my team wish I would fire this person and give them the money. I’m sure they focus on the mistakes this person makes with tech while not realizing this person makes a terribly low salary and takes on a lot of work nobody else is willing to do. Don’t assume your management isn’t cognizant of the issues.

I agree with others that you ask for the raise, and let them figure out the whether and the how. And be aware you may hear a no. Pushing back will not help your case if you do hear a no.

I think most bosses do care about why. I do. I know everyone wants more money. I know everyone on my team contributes. If someone feels they’ve really progressed, I want to hear them make the case.
posted by kapers at 5:38 AM on December 16, 2017 [14 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this. You should have the conversation (not the "dead weight" one, but the "I'm so great!" one), your boss can read between the lines. But ultimately, you'll probably need to look for employment elsewhere for the reasons metahawk listed. Don't wait around and become resentful.
posted by Toddles at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

You don't want your company leadership to micromanage you, so don't try to micromanage them. There are a score of other issues at play that you might not see from your vantage point. Never assume you know better than your boss how to manage something, but if you do that (we all have our moments) definitely don't act on it. It's a great way to go from beloved rock star to toxic team member in your boss's eyes.

Just give them a problem: you deserve more money and a better title, and trust them to solve it. Say you are happy to help brainstorm a solution if they need it. If you're not happy with how they run the business, leave.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have been there. My condolences. One "easy" way to do this is to win a grant in your work area or a closely related one. If you're doing housing assistance now (let's say), maybe you can get some money for a new position in the legal department. Obviously you don't have the final say in what happens to that money, but you can certainly say that you'd love to move up.

If you know for a fact that there's no money because you've seen the budget, then yes, I think a new grant is your best option. If you merely SUSPECT that there's no money, you can go out and get an offer for a job that pays 10% more and bring the offer back to your existing workplace. In a friendly way, of course.

Good luck!
posted by 8603 at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2017

The newish CEO (4 months) is a fan of mine and has mentioned that "I could go anywhere".

This means "I know anonymous could easily get a job somewhere else that pays more", not that they can give you a raise.

They probably have other contacts in your field and if they are a big enough fan of yours might even be willing to make some introductions for you. If you suggest they fire others, even in a "subtle" or "tactful" manner, this will never, never ever happen -- basically yes, your manager will care why you wanted a salary increase, because they will be happy to have this information so as to reassess their previous high opinion of you.
posted by yohko at 1:31 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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