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Salary Negotiation | How to Make a Counter Offer

A person putting a coin in a piggy bank.

For many nonprofit professionals, salary negotiation can feel like an elusive art form. Sometimes, we’re so happy that we got the job offer at all that we end up feeling as though we’ve run out of the energy and the gumption that may be required to initiate a salary talk.

If you're up for some negotiation after you get the offer, follow these tips to set yourself up for success.

Key negotiation pointers

Here are a few things to remember as you get into negotiations:

  • You’re on the same side. You want to work there and the hiring manager wants to make an offer that is attractive to you. Think of this as your first chance to work with your prospective employer.
  • Plan your approach. It’s important to go into the conversation with reasonable requests and ready to listen. If you don’t feel like you have all the communication tools you need, pick up a book on communication and negotiation skills.
  • Be upfront. If salary is your bottom line, start there. Say something like, “Based on the research I’ve done, the salary range for this position seems to be higher than what I was offered. I’d like to be able to get closer to that number.”
  • Be open-minded. If the answer is no, you can ask about room for growth and the organization’s vision for the future. I once took a job for less because the hiring team was upfront and mentioned that raises would be a top priority for the future. They were true to their word and I ended up being bumped in salary three times in my first three years.
  • Be realistic. Many organizations run on smaller budgets and have less wiggle room where salaries are concerned. Asking for a 5% increase may not seem like a lot to you, but it could have a significant impact on an organization. Consider whether there are other benefits that may be negotiable if salary is not.
  • Know your bottom line. Only you know what you need to manage your expenses and make a job offer seem worthwhile. It’s up to you to decide if you feel good enough about the offer to accept the position. It’s okay to wait for the job you truly want—one that includes the salary you deserve.

Starting the counter-offer conversation

There is no better time to open the door to potential negotiation than soon after receiving a job offer. Here’s how to get the conversation started:

  1. Show gratitude. Thank the employer for the offer and let them know you’d like to take some time to consider it. Remember that the best time to negotiate is before you accept the job.
  2. Do your research. Make sure you do your due diligence by researching salary ranges for the role and take a look at the organization’s Form 990 as well. If you’re going to be asking for more money, you want to make sure your request is fair and based on real numbers, not just on what you wish you were making.
  3. Reconnect and be transparent. Once you have a number in mind and you’re ready to reach back out to the employer, be upfront when you get on the phone. Let them know you’re calling to discuss your salary and you’d like to have that conversation before you can make your final decision. If you choose to reconnect via email first, that’s okay, but try to make sure that at least some of the conversation happens on the phone.

Pro Tip: While you’re thinking, ask yourself if money truly is your bottom line. There are many benefits beyond base salary. Consider negotiating for a different job title, additional sick or vacation days, flexible scheduling, the possibility of remote work, and any other perks that would allow for a better work-life balance.

Asking for more can be scary. But remember that for most employers, raising the question of salary and negotiation will not come as a shock as they’ve likely had this type of conversation many times before. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you deserve. If you want this you’ll have to ask because no one else will do it for you.

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About the Author | For nearly two decades, Jeannette Eaton has been working for nonprofits and helping people identify their strengths. She has experience as an advocate for women and girls in crisis, a volunteer coordinator for adult literacy, and a family literacy instructor.

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