How A Nonprofit Manager Talked Her Way Out Of A $5,000 Raise

Illustrations by Janet Sung.
In our series My Salary Story, women with years of career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way. Interested in contributing your salary story? Email us here.
Previously, we talked to a 33-year-old senior manager in tech who weathered Wall Street layoffs. Today, we connect with a nonprofit senior manager who worries she's being paid less than a junior colleague with less experience.
Age: 32
Current Location: Washington, DC
Current Industry & Title: Nonprofit, Senior Manager
Starting Salary: $700/month in 2007
Current Salary: $95,000/year
Number of years employed: 11
Biggest Salary Jump: $36,500-$65,000
Biggest Salary Drop: "I made less going from grad school to working part-time after graduation, but I haven't had a strict salary drop in terms of full-time work."
Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: "Not asking for the salary I wanted and later learning I probably would have gotten it."
Best Salary-Related Advice: "I know everyone says to know your worth, but it's really hard in niche fields. No job I've ever had is on Glassdoor, and I've always worked at small organizations so it is even harder to talk to coworkers about salary. Try to talk to friends or professional peers at other organizations. And even though it can feel silly, practice negotiation conversations with a friend or partner!"
1 of 10
"I graduated from undergrad in 2007 and did an Americorps program in D.C. making $700/month. My placement covered my pretty good health insurance (dental, vision and medical), a stipend for out-of-pocket costs like prescriptions, public transportation, and the program gave us a gym membership and had free meals once or twice a week.

"After I completed the yearlong program, I got a $1,000 bonus that I used to buy a new laptop. (My previous one was from 2003.) Americorps also gave me an education award that I used to pay off some undergrad loans."
2 of 10
"After Americorps, I got a job doing basically the same thing I did during my year of service — just getting paid a real salary. I stayed in D.C. and worked as a case manager; I made $35,000.

"The organization had a policy of not putting employees on the health insurance until 90 days in. So, even though I didn't try to negotiate my salary or title when I got the offer, I asked to either be enrolled in the policy earlier or have the organization pay for my COBRA. They chose the latter and the executive director later told me she was really impressed that I had negotiated."
3 of 10
"A year in, I got a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) raise to $36,500. My position was grant funded so I didn't try to negotiate for more. My very good health insurance (dental, vision, and medical) was completely paid for and I had two or three weeks of leave, but no retirement plan."
4 of 10
"I left my last job and started grad school in 2010 in the Midwest. All during grad school, I also worked for a legislator and made $12/hour. I didn't have benefits or anything else, but my boss sometimes bought me breakfast or lunch. My salary was primarily funded through federal work study, but I had a good relationship with my boss and got a little extra money even after I used up all the government funds.

"During summers, I went back to D.C. for internships where I sometimes got a stipend. One year, only transportation was covered and another year, I received a $3,000 lump sum."
5 of 10
"I graduated from grad school in 2013 and moved back to D.C., but it took me longer than I hoped to get a job. I started tutoring during my search and was paid $35/hour — no benefits or anything else but with few very far away clients, I was able to negotiate payment for mileage.

"Despite the lengthy job search and my reduced earnings, I absolutely feel my current career (both the work I do and my salary) would have been impossible to get or would have taken much, much longer to attain without my graduate degrees. Plus, scholarships paid for almost all my tuition."
6 of 10
"My biggest salary leap was the job I got after grad school. I started working as a policy analyst at a nonprofit and my starting salary was $65,000. They never gave me an indication of the range, but from research, I knew similar jobs were $50,000 and up.

"Unfortunately, I did exactly what articles tell you not to do. During negotiations, I was pressed to give a number and after attempting to demur, said an acceptable salary would be in the $60,000-$70,000 range. But instead of keeping my mouth shut as all the advice says, I basically lasted seconds of silence before saying 'but I know there are other factors besides base salary...' I think I was both uncertain because I had never really negotiated before and scarred over not being employed full time for awhile. She came back with $65,000 and I didn't negotiate for salary.

"I did try to negotiate my start date because of a trip I already had planned — and to have the time off be paid — but either my boss misunderstood or purposefully did something else. I didn't get paid for that time but I didn't have to use leave either.

"My medical insurance through work is a very good, low-deductible plan, although it's the first job where I've had to contribute to it. The organization offers a retirement plan to employees after they've been with the organization one year and you're 100% vested starting then as well. I accrue two days of leave per pay period, so approximately four per month."
7 of 10
"I have an annual review every year around the anniversary of my start date. I had been told by a coworker that that is when any raises happen. In my first year, my duties changed and I wanted to discuss a title change to better reflect that. My boss said she thought I was doing great and offered me a 5% raise which brought me to $68,250. I did not try to negotiate salary but explained my reasoning and asked for a different, more advanced title. She was so weird about it!

"She said she agreed with everything I was saying — but also said if they hired someone older than me I couldn't manage them."
8 of 10
"She went on vacation for a month and in that time I was recruited for another position. While I generally think it's always good to go on interviews, I probably wouldn't have if she had responded with more transparency and with less age bias.

"In the end, I decided I loved the actual work I do enough to stay, but asked work to match the other salary offer ($78,000) and revisit the title discussion. They gave me another raise (came to $10K more than my starting salary so not $78,000 but $75,000) and a better title, but not Director. Even though I think I was in the right, it was pretty awkward for a little bit and some lingering weirdness about the other organization whom we still work with."
9 of 10
"The next year at my annual review, she offered me a $10,000 raise bringing me to $85,000. I was pleased with that and it seemed crazy to ask for more so I didn't."
10 of 10
"By the time I went into my summer 2017 review, I had made a number of important contributions to the organization, including a grant that allowed us to hire a new staff member to work with me. That position was advertised with the title I started with years before, but he asked for and got a better one when he started. Later, I also found out he was making several thousand dollars more than me. I was floored because I created the program we were working on, his job would not exist without the grant I got, I have more academic credentials than he does, and I'm older than him (something my boss made clear was important to her)!

"I've always gotten positive annual reviews after specific projects and events, I have more experience and do more work than he does, and I believe I should be compensated to a higher degree. I also believe I should also have a better title but my organization seems to be more flexible on pay than it is on hierarchy, even when titles cost nothing.

"I spent weeks talking to friends and practicing what to say (I had different escalating versions planned), but when I went in for my review, my boss offered me $10,000, bringing me to $95,000. I planned to ask for $96,000 because I thought I would get countered down. I was so taken aback that I didn't argue.

"Then, in the biggest salary negotiation regret of my career yet, my boss told me she was surprised; she thought I would have asked for more. I am still really pissed about it. Don't play games: If you think I deserve more money and are willing to pay it, just offer that. Of course, by the time she said that, it was too late for me to negotiate higher."

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