News and Events

Event Summary & Resources: Thriving Leaders Forum on Pay Equity

POSTED ON May 4, 2022

On April 22, 2022, YDEKC hosted a Thriving Leaders Forum: Reimagining Pay Equity in Youth-serving Nonprofits, the first event in our 2022 Thriving Leaders series. Our goals for the 3-hour forum were to: 

  • Explore many of the challenges and opportunities related to Pay Equity in our sector in order to see the big picture  
  • Provide ideas, inspiration, and tools to help catalyze change from within nonprofits & from those that support us  
  • Build community across the sector and support movement building towards a more equitable and thriving sector 

Planned with the support of YDEKC’s Equity & Engagement Program Committee, we were excited to reach 88 registrants, with 67 people attending the event live. To encourage reflection and bring everyone’s experiences into the room, we invited participants to share their observations and ideas via Mentimeter, including what inequities in compensation they’ve seen and what they believe the most important action is to take to address inequities and improve compensation. 

Our keynote panelists offered diverse perspectives on the complexity of addressing pay equity, sharing strategies and inspiration for ways to move this work forward. As Lindsay Hill stated, “I think we’re asking the nonprofit sector to be centered around equity, impact, justice, to pay thriving wages, but we have to acknowledge that’s not what it was ever set up to do, and so small reforms, in my opinion, are not going to accelerate the work as fast as it needs to.” We appreciated our panelists’ courage to share what they are learning right now. Some of the ideas shared include: 

  • Developing a compensation philosophy that aligns with organizational values 
  • Using a pay matrix, that begins with the same starting wage for every position, to determine compensation for each individual, and sharing that transparently with staff 
  • Incorporating staff at multiple levels within the organization in conversations and planning around compensation practices 
  • Redefining expectations around what level of pay should be offered (for example, what’s “competitive” in the market may not be a living or a thriving wage in our region) 
  • Educating and advocating for change by facilitating conversations and sharing resources with donors about equitable compensation (and challenging the assumptions we sometimes make about donors) 
  • Reparative action and investment in Black and Indigenous women through innovative approaches to philanthropy such as an LLC that pays individuals directly 
  • Philanthropic donations with no strings attached and no metrics or reporting required 
  • Pushing back where possible with donors or funders who are still putting limitations or setting specific expectations around overhead 
  • Emphasizing the critical role our sector plays in providing “human infrastructure” — we are skilled craftspeople, just like laborers working on physical transportation infrastructure in our region 
  • Participating in groups advocating for change like the Seattle Human Services Coalition’s Raising Wages for Changing Lives Campaign 

The second half of the event was centered on community conversations hosted by local leaders, where groups discussed topics including the new King County Nonprofit Wage & Benefits Survey Report and other tools and strategies to work towards equitable compensation; advocating for government contracts that cover the full cost of services; philanthropy’s role in supporting thriving wages; and changing policy to support the child care sector and its employees. Check out notes from these breakout room conversations, while keeping in mind that the notes do not reflect the full context of the conversations (for example, in many cases people were discussing practices that were creating inequities within nonprofits and strategies to address inequities, so you will see both represented in the notes). 

We hosted this Learning Forum with the intention of building momentum to move from knowledge to action, so we prepared a Resource List to support leaders at all levels with resources, tools, and campaigns to move this work forward. Actions some of our participants plan to take include: 

  • Individual transparency (“Share my pay with my team”) 
  • Involving other stakeholders (“Bring information back to Board”) 
  • Strengthening internal policies (“I intend to work with my board to improve our policies around compensation. We’ve made huge strides, but it’s all been in practice and not in policy. I’d like to build our foundation of policies so we can build from there”) 
  • Research and knowledge-building (“dig into these resources and share and bring forward discussions in our organization”) 

Here are some quotes from attendees about what they most appreciated about the Forum… 

  • “I appreciated the panelist and the HONEST, REAL talk they brought to the space. The breakout rooms were also very welcoming and it felt raw and communal.” 
  • “Loved the panel and all the resources shared. I learned so much!” 
  • “So much richness – personally I am affirmed in my own leadership (and fund development) approach. Hearing stories and personal experiences from other participants was moving.” 
  • “Building good momentum for this work.” 
  • “The Plenary, and examples of the language and mindset that innovative leaders in pay equity are using to promote pay equity – human infrastructure, highly flexible benefits packages.” 
  • “Hearing from the attorney about changes to the law.” 

The suggested improvements to this event are on our minds as well – deeper dives into more specific topics via workshop presentations, ways to continue the conversation beyond this single event, and more information on practical steps to take. Participants are interested in engaging further on topics including equitable compensation and pay equity, government contract negotiation, and community-centric fundraising 

We look forward to continuing to move this work forward with all of you. Keep us posted on your progress or let us know if you’re seeking a particular resource by emailing 

Save the Date for our next Thriving Leaders Forum on September 23!