Rising wages: Seattle-wide trend, or nonprofit exclusive?

Nov 16, 2021, 2:11 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2021, 7:47 am
nonprofit wages...
(Photo courtesy of Choose 180 via Twitter)
(Photo courtesy of Choose 180 via Twitter)

A Burien-based nonprofit, Choose 180, made headlines in recent days for its pledge to raise the base salary of their employees by as much as $20,000, citing a desire to kickstart a “groundswell” among Seattle-based nonprofits towards paying wages that are commensurate with the cost of living.

“We may have been the first to step up and speak publicly about this commitment that we’re making,” Choose 180 Executive Director Sean Goode told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “But there’s already a groundswell of nonprofits who have been having this conversation.”

Yet, that decision to bolster salaries in the hope of consistently keeping employees earning a living wage is one that has been made by other companies in recent years, and that prospective paradigm shift is still twisting in the wind.

The CEO of Gravity Payments, Dan Price, made a similar decision in 2016 when he too pledged to raise base salaries to meet an annual $70,000 threshold.

In response to a Seattle Times article which posited the question of: Will Choose 180’s decision to raise their employees’ salaries “set off a chain reaction?” Price responded on Twitter, “I hope so. Sadly we did this 6 years ago, and I’m still waiting on the chain reaction.”

Goode insists that in order for other similar organizations to move in a likeminded direction, Seattle needs to fundamentally rethink its perspective on the function of nonprofits.

“If we’re going to have a conversation about resourcing, can we take it out of the construct of ‘nonprofit’ and simply look at it as services as provided?” Goode asked.

“If the same services are provided in a county or city building, these folks that are doing the work, that really are uniquely aligned with ours, are already making [upwards of] $70,000, in addition to really terrific benefits. What I’m proposing is [to] apply that same lens [to nonprofits], and keep that same energy across the many disciplines that are being resourced by your tax dollars,” Goode said.

In order for that to happen, Goode says, nonprofits must be rethought, not as charity work which requires a “pledge of poverty,” but that which provides essential services to the city, “people who are serving diligently, creating the space for basic needs to be met for those that are at the margin.”

As far as that chain reaction is concerned, Goode sees it, at least in the nonprofit sector.

“I heard [from] no less than half a dozen nonprofit leaders at a variety of different nonprofits at different profiles within our community that are now looking into how they can make this a reality for their teams as well,” Goode added. “They are considering what the cost would be and how they could be able to cover that cost.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Rising wages: Seattle-wide trend, or nonprofit exclusive?