Comp & Benefits Study Underscores SC Nonprofits' Need for Resources to Invest in Their People

Posted By: Kathryn Harvey Together SC,

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Executive Summary 

Full Report 


First Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Study in a Decade Reveals Inequities and Disparities Underscoring SC Nonprofits’ Need for Resources to Invest in Its People. 

COLUMBIA, SC, October 12, 2022 Together SC, the state’s network of nonprofit organizations and their allies for good, recently commissioned  the first statewide nonprofit compensation study in a decade with findings that underscored significant pay inequity in our state’s nonprofit sector. In 2017, nearly 90,000 South Carolinians made a living working for nonprofit organizations; that number has only grown.

The nonprofit sector addresses complex and critical issues that intersect with our economic and community success: educational attainment, affordable housing, access to healthcare, ending violence, arts and culture, and animal and land conservation. To address these issues nonprofits must be able to tap into vibrant, diverse talent available.

Nearly 500 charitable nonprofits that employ one or more professional staff replied to the 70 question survey conducted by Kahle Strategic Insights last March. Their responses reveal pay and benefit disparities indicating a critical need for funding to attract, invest in and retain quality staff.

The salary data provided on 41 positions will help nonprofit leaders determine if compensation packages are competitive and equitable. Survey findings will also help  identify steps to improve equity in hiring and compensation practices and to attract the talent needed to address pressing community issues. 

Study Objectives:

Together SC and its partners commissioned the 2022 SC Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Study, prepared by Kahle Strategic Insights, to assist our state’s nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in:

  • Determining competitive and equitable salaries;
  • Crafting meaningful benefit packages; and,
  • Addressing Covid-19 related workplace changes.

Challenges for Nonprofit Leaders:

Based on Kahle Strategic Insights’ Study findings,  Together SC has identified four key challenges that must be tackled if we are to achieve the strategic challenge of “filling the pipeline” with diverse and talented nonprofit professionals. These include:

  1. Compensation is not always competitive.
  2. Entry level staff are not always paid a living wage.
  3. Benefits are often not provided.
  4. Disparities by gender and race persist.

Findings Underpinning These Challenges Include: 

  • In South Carolina male senior leaders make more than their female counterparts by an average of $16,291 (16.1%). It should also be noted that female executives made up 74% of the 419 executives submitting salary data. 
  • On average, E.D.s who are white make more than their counterparts of color by $18,583 (20%).
  • White executives make an average salary of $92,557, that is $18,583, or 25.1%, more than the $73,974 average annual salary of their colleagues of color. Disparities are greater when we consider those with bachelor’s degrees, with white executives making $26,000, or 33.7% more than executives of color.  Equitable pay for executives of color is only seen among executives with doctorate degrees.
  • A full 25% of nonprofit leaders responding to the survey indicate they do not think their organization pays a living wage to their lowest paid employees (often those working on the front line serving citizens in need). In addition, when analyzed using M.I.T.’s Living Wage Calculator, Kahle Strategic Insights uncovered that half of the 57% of respondents who reported they “definitely/probably” pay a living wage to their lowest paid employees, actually do not pay what’s considered a Living Wage using the calculator (based on a living wage by county for a single adult with no dependents).
  •  Just over half (50.6%) of SC nonprofits offer health insurance to their full-time staff. 
  • Beaufort had the highest percentage (34%) of nonprofit leaders (compared to 15-26% in other large counties) who plan to retire or resign in the next three years. 


    1. HR policies and practices have an impact. Specifically when organizations utilize all three of the following practices:
      • Listing salary ranges with job postings;
      • Conducting COLA and merit-based annual reviews; as well as, 
      • Conducting compensation equity analyses.
    2. Growth may increase focus on compensation and benefit inequities.
    3. Affordable health insurance and other benefits are newly available.

How this data can be used: 

  • This data will help nonprofit and philanthropic organizations meet changing workforce expectations; address inflation related pressure on salary and benefits; and identify the scope of Covid-19 related workplace changes
  • Nonprofits need to know if total compensation is competitive and if their compensation practices are equitable.
  • They need support identifying creative HR solutions, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
  • This data will provide a starting point for grantmakers to support nonprofits in offering equitable compensation and help identify steps to improve equity in hiring and compensation practices.
  • It will enable nonprofits to attract the talent necessary to address pressing community issues.

Quotes Include:

  • “Those who choose to devote themselves to a career of giving back, do so for the many rewards beyond financial compensation. But folks have to be able to care for their own families. These findings will allow us to do more good in the community as we are able to do good by our own staff,” shared Madeleine McGee, President of Together SC. 
  • “This comprehensive study provides a road map for Together SC and the entire nonprofit and philanthropic sector to move forward. Living wages, meaningful benefits, and HR policies that reduce compensation disparities by gender and race are actionable, data-based themes emerging from our survey of nonprofit leaders in SC.” Dr. Bob Kahle, Principal Investigator.
  • Scott Wierman, President of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, who helped initiate this research, shared that “Beaufort had the highest percent (34%) of leaders who plan to leave (compared to 15-26% in other large counties) is something we can’t ignore. It’s critical that our community prepares for what may be a significant increase in executive directors retiring or resigning in the next three years.”
  • ‘As we seek to transform our communities, nonprofit organizations, just like for-profit organizations, are fighting to attract and retain talent.’ says Paige Stephenson, Together SC Board Chair and President/CEO of United Way of the Piedmont. Together SC stands ready to share the survey results with local board members and philanthropic leaders so they can better understand and craft the compensation and benefits structures required for high-performing nonprofits.  Together, we can make that happen.’
  • Jada Willis, CEO of Willis HR - “In the ever-evolving labor market, it's paramount for every organization to provide competitive wages and benefits. It's critical that nonprofit organizations competitively align compensation and pay practices to attract and retain talented professionals. Committing to providing competitive pay may directly correlate with the effectiveness and sustainability of the organization.”
  • "The challenges we see in the nonprofit sector across South Carolina are amplified in rural communities where access to affordable healthcare is already an issue. Healthcare benefits are offered only by approximately 50% of nonprofits which means many people who work for these organizations are dependent on public health coverage, the public marketplace, or benefits from a spouse's employer. This creates a significant barrier to working in the nonprofit sector." - Belle Zeigler, Eastern Carolina  Community Foundatio


Run by nonprofit leaders and their allies, for nonprofit leaders, Together SC serves as the unifying voice for our state’s nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. And, through its member organizations, aims to support and empower volunteer and professional leaders dedicated to community service, leadership and caring. 

Together SC, which was known as SC Association of Non-Profit Organizations (SCANPO) for its first 20 years, began operating in 1997 with 67 charter member organizations. Today, its statewide network includes 800+ organizations, large and small, whose diverse leaders believe in Together SC's vision for creating a world in which SC’s nonprofits and their allies are integral players in successfully building vibrant, equitable communities.

Find more information about the Comp Benefits Survey here

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