Must Nonprofits Develop Employee Benefits As a Substitute for Annual Raises?

An analysis in the Washington Post reports that a tsunami-style change has been taking place in the manner in which United States employees are being paid—benefits are being offered in place of annual salary increases. Driving the change are the needs of a substantial portion of millennials who appreciate immediate gratifications in terms of bonuses and perks, such as extra time off and tuition reimbursement. Employers like the arrangement because they can immediately reward their best performers without increasing compensation costs. Example: One sales employee spent weeks reviewing dull paperwork, was very diligent in the process and was given three extra days of paid leave. She said, “I think everybody would like to make more, but what I liked about it was the flexibility.”

Matching Nonprofit Employee Lifestyles:

Will nonprofit boards and organizations be able to adapt to the model strategically in an environment where wages are traditionally low and annual salary raises at best have ranged from two to three percent annually? Assuming this trend becomes a well-accepted one for nonprofits, those who follow the leaders will need to match the same types of benefits. For nonprofit boards that will have to approve the change, following are some of the benefits and challenges will occur.

How It Might Work?

Assume a nonprofit with a $2 million budget has allotted 3% for salary increases–$60,000. About half the allotment ($30,000) is designated for immediate benefit awards to achieve a “stretch” performance or for unusual performance on employee’s own initiatives. This would allow the very top performing persons to choose from a “buffet” of benefits during the year and for immediacy awards.


• Compensation benefit budgets will be easier to predict and implement.
• It will be easier to note high-performance employees as role models because their work will be rewarded quickly after the work has been performed.
• The plan meets the lifestyle needs of a substantial and growing portion of the US workforce. It also meets the cohort’s emotional needs—frequent and substantial praise. It is a workplace substitute for the “Good Job!” praise under which many have matured.
• For the board, the names of persons continually receiving perks and other benefits should be on a listing to review with the CEO for promotion and who has responsibility for the decision.


Dr. Eugene Fram
Dr. Eugene Fram
Eugene H. Fram, Ed.D., is an expert in nonprofit governance, a business consultant and an award-winning emeritus professor of the Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He is also the author of six books and more than 125 published articles and has been widely quoted by national media on topics ranging from business to high-performance nonprofits. His blog platforms on nonprofit governance have in excess of 3500 followers. He is a past recipient of RIT's highest award for outstanding teaching and one of a very select group awarded the Presidential Medallion, given to those making exceptionally significant contributions to the university. In 2012, a former student anonymously contributed $3 million to endow an RIT Chair in Critical Thinking in his name, an honor Dr. Fram describes as "a professor's dream come true!" Over his distinguished career, he has served on 12 nonprofit boards overseeing diverse community, national and professional organizations, and also has served on five for-profit boards. His particular passion is helping nonprofit boards perform at high levels as more is expected of these boards today than most people realize. He is the author of Going For Impact – The Nonprofit Director's Essential Guidebook: What to Know, Do and Not Do, and POLICY vs. PAPER CLIPS - How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Efficient & Effective.

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