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Negotiating the terms of a job offer, specifically compensation, can be challenging for even the most senior executive. It's not easy to walk that fine line between advocating for yourself and avoiding overstepping, asking for more than the organization can give, or, as many people fear, appearing "greedy" in the context of a nonprofit organization. Here are five tips for ensuring mutually agreeable negotiations:
1. Have the compensation conversation early. If you wait until the offer stage to talk about your — and the organization's — desired compensation range, one or both of you may be unpleasantly surprised. If you're working with a recruiter, you should talk about compensation early in the process and revisit it multiple times before you reach the point of receiving an offer. Otherwise, it's a good idea to raise the topic of compensation midway through the interview process, typically in the second round. It's not easy to broach the subject, but by simply saying, "I'd like to make sure that we discuss compensation to ensure that we're on the same page," you can open the door without creating awkwardness. As a follow up, you might ask, "Would you be able to share the range that you're look at for this position?" And when asked what your range is, follow the advice in the tip below.
2. Employ the right framing. You can avoid sending a negative message by framing your approach properly. Here's a great way to do it: "In the big picture, salary is not the most important thing to me. Ensuring that our values are aligned and that I'm passionate about the mission that I'm working to advance is, which is why I am so excited about this opportunity. That said, I would like to have a conversation about compensation."
3. Be upfront. As recruiters, we have seen candidates play games, be coy about what they want, or come across as vague or unclear. All of these approaches tend to backfire. Most hiring managers and board members will respect an open and honest approach and respond accordingly.
4. Think beyond compensation. Though the nonprofit sector has improved compensation standards immensely over the last decade to attract talent, the truth is that every nonprofit has limited funds. If your salary needs are higher than what they can offer, think creatively about what other benefits might appeal to you. This could include the ability to work from home regularly, a one-time signing bonus, additional training, a different title, an agreement that your compensation will be reviewed after twelve months, or a relocation stipend.
5. Look for a win-win. Successful compensation negotiations often require both parties to give a little. As you move through the negotiation process, look for ways to end up with a win-win, so you can focus on what's most important: the good work that you're going to do.
Molly Brennan is founding partner of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector.