Salary negotiations in anti-violence movements: What are you worth?

When was the last time you asked for a raise?

[crickets chirping?]

Some of you may be snorting…or laughing…or completely dismayed by this question. You may be working at organizations that “don’t have it in the budget this year” or “have to ask staff to take a cut to keep everyone on” or, most recently, “the government shutdown will prevent your funds from being disbursed.”

These are all very real issues and the reality that most of us face every day. Yes, we are all doing work that we believe in. Yes, it keeps me coming in every day and giving it my all. Yes, I also believe in paying my mortgage.

Another reality that we have to face in our movement is that internalized oppression may be guiding organizational practice. It is so important that we (collective movement) value the work that we (movement members) do. Women may be less likely to negotiate a starting salary. Folks who identify as members of traditionally oppressed groups may not have had the social learning opportunities that guide us in practices like asking for a raise assertively. Even if right now doesn't feel like the right time, it doesn't hurt to have a plan in place.

A resource recently posted in a career group I’m a part of discusses the how-to of salary negotiations. Whether you’re new to the movement, or you’ve been in it (at the same starting salary plus 1% cost of living increase) for a long time, there are some great take-aways.

  1. Know your market value: think about your relevant experiences and how they will positively impact the job you do. What kind of particular expertise do you offer to your position? Have you earned a degree since beginning in this position?
  2. Know what you want: You can’t just walk into an office and say I need more cash. There are different components in compensation, like retirement options or vacation time. Weigh what’s available and where there may be room for some leverage. If your organization can’t give you more money, can they offer you an extra week of vacation?
  3. Know the job: Can you take on more responsibility in exchange for more money? Are there funding opportunities that can fund your work on an innovative project?

While reading this how-to, I realized that I've done some things wrong in the past. I also recognized that I did some things right. If you are in the market for a raise, go in with an assertive but respectful plan. If you are in the position of negotiating another employee's salary for an organization, I know that you care about your people. I know you want them to feel supported. I also know that you need to balance the budget and report to the board. Just consider ways that you or the organizational structure can find ways to value the work that we do.

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