How the Survey Serves All Kinds of Nonprofits
in All 48 Northern California Counties

We survey a vast geographic area, 48 Northern California counties, from Del Norte County in the far northwest to Inyo County in the far southeast.

And we make special efforts to serve both larger and smaller nonprofit organizations, as well as those from both urban/suburban and rural counties:

Larger Nonprofits

The survey will be especially useful to larger nonprofits because of extensive changes that the Internal Revenue Service has made to the annual Form 990 tax return.

Since 2001 the IRS has encouraged charities to go through a set of steps to ensure that executive compensation is set appropriately. On the revised Form 990, the IRS has standardized reporting to make comparing salaries easier and requires charities to provide information about the process they use to set the salaries of employees who receive $150,000 or more in total compensation.

The survey will help you navigate through this process and will be a primary tool to help you document the rationale you use to set the salaries you pay your executives.

Conducting your agency's own compensation and benefits survey to satisfy IRS requirements would cost you a small fortune, maybe as much as $5,000 to $10,000 to engage a consultant to provide some usable comparables. A much better alternative is to acquire Fair Pay for Northern California Nonprofits: The 2017 Compensation & Benefits Survey Report for a fraction of this amount. It's a no-brainer!

As a special bonus, in 2015 we added four new executive-level jobs unique to larger organizations: Chief Communications Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Information Officer. In 2016 we added new jobs in the Administration, Animal Welfare, Cultural/Performing Arts and Education areas. Additions this year include a new group of Environment/Conservation jobs, as well as new jobs in the Medical & Clinical Services area.

Smaller Nonprofits

The 2016 survey had 361 smaller organization (less than $5,000,000 in annual expenses) participants, compared to 351 in 2015.

A number of smaller agencies who, because of their size don’t have a human resources department, have told us that just participating in the survey is well worth the effort, even if they don't decide to purchase the survey report. The exercise in itself is like an annual human resources self audit and enables an executive director and their board of directors to get a quick and complete snapshot of their organization's own compensation and benefits policies and practices annually. In short, it helps them attract and retain the best and brightest employees. All without the need to pay for an expensive human resources department or consultant.

Rural County Nonprofits

The 2016 survey had 71 rural county nonprofit organization participants, a modest increase compared to 60 in 2015.

Historically, many nonprofits from rural counties have not participated in the survey, and therefore don’t feel that it is of much use to them. In our mind, it’s a chicken and egg thing. If more would participate, it would be of more use to them. If few do, it isn’t.

Participation is free so participate to make the survey more robust and useful to your fellow nonprofits. If you don’t want to purchase the survey report, you can look at it for free at your closest survey regional partner (click here for a list of regional partners).

Maybe nonprofits in your county can be more like nonprofits in little (in population) San Benito County.

San Benito County nonprofits increased their participation in the survey from 2 participants in 2015 to 13 in 2016, a whopping 550% increase. This was largely due to an informal campaign among them to do so. And they only have around 30 staffed nonprofits in the whole county. To honor them, we produced a free 54 page Central Coast mini-survey of 57 participating agencies in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

As a reward for area nonprofits who dramatically increased their participant numbers, we have produced other free mini-surveys, most recently for Sonoma County in 2013. Maybe your county or region could be next.

To find out more details about this standing offer, email co-publisher Bob Orser at or call him at 707-310-4857.

Urban/Suburban County Nonprofits

511 nonprofits from Northern California urban/suburban county nonprofit organizations participated in the 2016 survey, compared to 487 in 2015.

The survey traditionally has done extremely well in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley urban and suburban counties. The Central Valley tells another story:

  • Sacramento/Sacramento County and the surrounding counties of El Dorado, Placer and Yolo. We had 60 participants from these four counties in 2015 and only 43 in 2016.
  • Fresno/Fresno County and the surrounding counties of Madera, Mariposa and Tulare. We had a total of five participants from these four counties in 2015 and ten in 2016, a 100% increase. However, the participant numbers in these four counties are far below the number we need to produce data that will make the survey report useful to nonprofits in this area.

We’re working with our regional partners in the Central Valley, from north to south, to increase the number of survey participants in this region. Please help us out by participating in the survey and encouraging one or more of your fellow nonprofits to do so. You’ll be glad you did.