Throughout the Mission Society’s 200 plus-year history, we have been committed to helping the most populations vulnerable in New York City. Our organization has seen students and families through many crises that have furthered their economic burdens. With the most recent upheaval caused by the pandemic, we believe it is time to double down on our goal of ending multigenerational poverty. However, we cannot do this if we leave our staff – a majority of whom live in the communities we serve– out of the mix.
Historically, nonprofit salaries have been low and social service providers have been undervalued, despite the demanding nature of many of these jobs. Over two years of facing a global pandemic has highlighted this further, demonstrating that this work is essential to the well-being of our communities and health of our economy. Still, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages of management and related workers at nonprofits are, on average, $3.36 per hour less than those of their for-profit counterparts. The New York Times states that the nationwide labor shortage has caused staffing difficulties across sectors. Unlike other industries, many nonprofits cannot raise salaries to incentivize workers to stay because they are reliant on philanthropic support. This only deepens the pay gap and diminishes the presence of vital social services.
Here at the Mission Society, we know it would be unethical to perpetuate poverty – the problem we’ve dedicated our lives to solving – within our organization. We prioritize staff raises, and commit money and investment income that will ensure our team receives a genuine living wage for their extraordinary work, but it requires the financial support of our partners to do so. Despite how difficult it is to acquire necessary funding, we continue to seek out ways to maintain these efforts year-after-year by advocating on behalf of our staff.
Using data, like the MIT living wage study, provides us with a baseline as we review and adjust staff salaries annually. Additionally, Mission Society ensures a better standard of living by designing individual development plans for each staff member to support their continued learning and training, and provide them with opportunities to advance in their professional fields.
When the pandemic began, we embarked on another initiative to make sure that our staff and their families benefited from their time with Mission Society. We provided them with a whole life insurance plan in addition to our employer-funded term life insurance. This gives our staff the option to take their plan with them if they leave Mission Society to work elsewhere.
Economic mobility for our staff is an incredibly important aspect of the way we view equity. I’m proud to be at the helm of a nonprofit that not only strives to create change in our communities, but also ensures we aren’t permitting economic hardship to persist among those who are the backbone of our organization.