Women are transforming the nonprofit world, make sure your organization can keep up.

Shout out to all of you incredible women out there, because itBalance is International Women’s Day! Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women.  Even more, we are called to a collective action to create a gender balanced world. Nonprofits everywhere are consistently working to #BalanceForBetter in communities (and yours might be one of them) but gender balance inequalities might be hidden in your own organization. Here’s a few things you should know about the state of women in nonprofits, and what that means for your organization. 

We Have a Lot to Celebrate

With progress comes change, and your nonprofit should change with it. Here are four things we learned about how women have shaped nonprofits, and how your organization should aim to grow this year.  

Nonprofits Support Women Worldwide

There are an incredible amount of nonprofits fighting for equality and for women and girls around the world. Recent events have shifted donation trends, which you might want to consider when creating your next campaign. Let’s take a look. (Source: Charity Navigator were first reported here.)

  • The #MeToo movement sparked a 7% increase in donations to women’s organizations with 13% more donors contributing. This increase in donors suggests a rise in the number of younger donors, who have less to donate. Don’t forget about them in your future campaigns. Power to the future!
  • The Time’s Up Legal Defense raised $22 million to support women filing lawsuits against sexual misconduct and harassment claims.
  • Women’s reproductive health organizations saw dramatic increases. Physicians for Reproductive Health saw a 61% increase, and NARAL saw a 91% increase.
  • RAINN found donations increased 42% from 2017.

Ellipse 4Social movements and trends can quickly gather a lot of support in the digital age. When deciding how to tell your organization’s story, look to see what people are already talking about online. Check news articles, follow activism influencers on Twitter or Instagram, and create Google Alerts for your keywords. Can you contribute to the story? Are you working to solve something that recently gained online traction? Join the conversation and spread the word. People want to help. 

Utilize the power of social media. The conversations are happening online, but they’re different on every platform. Make sure you’re dedicating enough time to sharing your message and story in the correct places.

Women Work for the Greater Good

On average, women make up  75% of the nonprofit workforce! This means 9.2 million American women (out of 12.29 million) work in the nonprofit world, which happens to be the third largest workforce in the USA. This leaves me asking… why don’t people talk about this more? There is some incredible talent to be found within the walls of your nonprofits. Let’s raise these voices.

How so? When you tell the story of your nonprofit, include the inspiration, the passion, and the emotions of those who work there. These stories, alongside your cause, give your donors a full picture of who you are and why you’re fighting. They will feel more connected and emotionally committed.

Nonprofits Encourage Women to Lead…

A recent study found that 57% of women in nonprofits aspire to hold a leadership role, compared to only 37% of the women working in corporations. This is a workforce that is inspiring and empowering women in the workplace. Women are watching each other lead, and seeking more responsibility.

Something is working! Whether because of the work-life balance, the passion for working for the greater good, or simply the supportive networks, this energy can and should be spread to the for-profit corporate world as well. Continue networking across platforms, having open conversations about your work environment, and leading by example.

… And Women Are LeadingEllipse 3

Progress! Guidestar found that far more women are leading nonprofit organizations in the US compared with 2005. In small nonprofits, 57% of women are CEOs, up from 53%. Larger nonprofits saw the number of female CEO’s increased from 20% to 30%.

While women are still more likely to be leading smaller organizations than larger ones, progress is progress!

We Still Have a Ways To Go

While we celebrate progress in the quest for equality, we must also take a hard look at areas still in need of balance. 

Disproportionate Power

While women’s leadership is increasing in smaller nonprofits, medium to large organizations are still more likely to be run by a male CEO, with only 18-22% of women leading nonprofits with budgets larger than $50 million (source).

Overall, only 45% of nonprofit CEOs are women. A margin this close to equal would seem great, but remember that 75% of the nonprofit workforce are women. Why is there such a difference between who is working, and who is leading?

Intentional Hiring

Ellipse 2So you have a new job opening. You and your team create an extensive profile for the ideal candidate. After resumes and interviews, weeks have gone by. When was the last time you looked at your profile? Jan Masaoka from California Association of Nonprofits found that even after creating these extensive profiles for the ideal candidate, many boards in the end still hire the people they like best, ignoring their initial profile.

There’s some psychological reasons behind your bias, and whether unconscious or not, it’s your responsibility to recognize them. It can start at the resume: you find a personal connection with a bio, maybe you went to the same university or are from the same area. You’re already influenced to like them more. This preconceived idea gives them a leg up when they come for an interview, and you’re more likely to hire them. This is only one example of the many ways hiring can be influenced by our own biases.

Take this responsibility seriously. Whoever you add to the team will continue to shape your nonprofits’ culture. There is an abundance of research online but these tips for curbing hiring bias from Qualigence are a great place to start.

The Gender Pay Gap Persists

While the ratio of female to male CEOs increased in the past decade, the average pay disparity had little progress.

  • The median compensation for female CEOs is 4% to 20% behind those of males.
  • Women running nonprofits with $2.5 to $5 million budgets are paid a full 23% less than males in the same position.
  • CEO compensation is growing at drastically different rates. At large nonprofits, compensation for women rose 4.9% while compensation for men rose 8.9% in 2016.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Ellipse 1Don’t rely on your gut feeling. Just because it doesn’t seem like your organization has a wage gap, doesn’t mean you’re right. You need cold, hard, indisputable facts.

So, it’s time for an audit! The National Council of Nonprofits provides a good overview of what you should be looking for here. Lisa Brown Alexander suggests taking a hard look at all discrepancies over 15%. If they can’t be justified, they must be corrected.

You’re in control of the story. It is much better to do an audit now, discover any discrepancies, and make them right. Always remain visible and intentional with your compensations. With the growing trend of co-workers sharing their wage information, it’s only a matter of time before someone starts asking questions.


Want to learn more? Here are some helpful resources for your nonprofit to make the most of International Women’s Day.

There’s more to come!

This concludes part one of our four-part series: The State of Women in Nonprofits. Look out for new content featured every Friday of March. Next up is how your nonprofit can #BalanceforBetter. Have a happy International Women’s Day!

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