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NFP salaries remain steady amid COVID chaos


31 May 2021 at 5:41 pm
Luke Michael
New data from the largest social sector salary survey in Australia has just been released.


Luke Michael | 31 May 2021 at 5:41 pm


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NFP salaries remain steady amid COVID chaos
31 May 2021 at 5:41 pm

New data from the largest social sector salary survey in Australia has just been released.

COVID-19 has only had a small impact on salaries in the social sector, with some leaders even seeing their salaries increase over the past year, according to the 2021 Pro Bono Australia Salary Survey.

Now in its ninth year, the annual NFP salary survey aims to provide reliable salary benchmarking data for key roles in the sector, and includes analysis from Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (QUT ACPNS).

More than 2,320 not-for-profit and social sector leaders across Australia participated in this year’s survey, a 24 per cent increase on the total number of cases collected last year.

Given the disruptions caused by COVID-19 over the past year, the survey aimed to reveal how the pandemic has changed remuneration in the sector. 

Dr Tracy Qu, a lecturer in the School of Accountancy at QUT, told Pro Bono News that leaders in the NFP sector have had their salaries remain “largely steady” throughout the pandemic.

“Based on the median salaries for each role, there was only a small impact of COVID-19 on leaders’ salaries. However, we have not isolated the effect of COVID-19 in analysis,” Qu said.

“Comparing 2021 to 2020, CEOs’ salaries slightly decreased by 2 per cent based on the median figure, while the CEO salary based on the average figure remains at the same level around $138,000.

“On the bright side, many tier 2 leaders, such as general manager, operations manager, marketing manager, and service manager, received increased median salaries by between 8 per cent and 11 per cent.”

The report noted that while COVID-19 has not generally made pay negotiations much harder than before, many respondents said they were not expecting a pay rise in the near future.

Many also said they did not intend to negotiate their salary at this point in time.

Qu said there were some possible reasons to explain why many respondents felt this way.

“They [may already be] happy with their current pay level [or] understand the difficult financial situation – due to COVID-19 – in the workplace, and thus do not want to put pressure onto their organisations,” she said.

“There may [also] be employment agreements which do not allow pay negotiation.”

Researchers said the report offered some lessons for the way organisations design their remuneration in the future.

Dr Alexandra Williamson, an ACPNS postdoctoral research fellow, told Pro Bono News most of the survey respondents had their remuneration linked to work performance. 

“While most respondents did not receive a bonus of any kind, a large proportion of respondents believe effective bonus schemes will increase their work performance and wish to receive bonus in future,” Williamson said. 

“If organisations are considering establishing bonus schemes, team performance targets are more preferred than individual targets.” 

Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM welcomed the release of the report. 

“Pro Bono Australia’s Salary Survey is the largest social sector salary survey in Australia, and as a result delivers a robust evidence base which can be trusted by boards, CEOs and managers to guide them when reviewing vital remuneration decisions,” Mahlab said. 

The full 2021 report is available here.  


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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