When Push Comes to Shove

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When Push Comes to Shove

Raising a family on a budget is no easy task. Just ask Emilia, mother of two. Together with her husband Jerome, who works at a local factory, they bring in a modest income that affords them a simple, yet happy life. And while her work in fundraising at Feelgreat Community Center (FCC) gave her a feeling of purpose and joy, the cost of living was soon starting to remind her that she hadn’t received a raise in 7 years – even after the recent increase in government grants the center received. Emilia wanted to ask for a raise but could never find the time. She felt guilty. None of her colleagues had received a raise either. She didn’t want to take resources away from the work they were doing to help people get back on their feet. She didn’t want to be the one to rock the boat.

Everything changed the day she received the call that Jerome got hurt at work. “We’re sorry, but your husband is on his way to the hospital. We are still figuring out what happened, please come as soon as possible!” Her mind was going in a million directions. How would the kids react? Would Jerome be permanently affected? Could she take time off to help in his recovery? Would the workers compensation be enough? Though Jerome’s health was at the top of her mind, she couldn’t help visualizing the bills that would soon come. They had no savings and were already stretched financially.

A month went by. Jerome was recovering back at home, the kids helped by doing extra chores, and Emilia was doing her best to keep it together. But she knew from the experience that carrying the family on her salary would not be possible. The Executive Director of FCC, Bob Bobson, had noticed that Emilia had begun to look weary and stressed. He also noted that on some days she would come in dressed in a freshly cleaned and pressed suit. Although she looked professional every day, Bobson knew this look. Emilia was going on job interviews. He knew he couldn’t lose her. So many of the relationships FCS had with donors were solely through her. He decided to call an emergency board meeting.

“We absolutely have to talk about staff salaries,” he said to the board. “I’ve done some research and you would not believe what I have found.” Bobson passed several copies of the compensation report around the table. “We’re paying Emilia $45,000 to be our Director of Development, which was fine when we were a $500,000 a year organization. But we’ve seen tremendous growth. We’re a $3 million dollar organization now. The average salary for a Development Director at an organization of our size is $92,000! Even at the 25th percentile, which is $78,000, we’re severely underpaying her. And everyone else…” Bobson began to pass out more copies. “We’ve got to make some changes, you guys. And fast.”

A few days later, just as Emilia was preparing to step out for a call with a recruiter, Bobson came into Emilia’s office and explained they needed to have a word. Emilia immediately froze at the thought that her interviewing had become obvious. “Look, we know you’re looking –now wait – let me finish,” he said as she tried to interject. “You have every right to be. Let me cut to the chase here. We want you to stay and understand your family is a top priority for you. The board has agreed to offer you $80,000 a year.” She burst into tears. “I take that as a yes?” he said with an empathetic look.

“Thank you, Bob!” Emilia said when she finally pulled herself together. “I would love to talk about this more and the implications on the fund development team’s goals for the year. But let me make a quick call first – I need to turn down a few job offers.”

Bob breathed a sigh of relief. “Take all the time you need.”


This story is fictional, but the need for making informed decisions is very real. Employee turnover is not only expensive in terms of money , but also in terms of losing the skills and relationships of good employees. Check in on your salary practices using our Compensation and Benefits Report.

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