Grant-makers are Doing Well – But Change is a-Coming by Marty Davis

Grant-making foundations are the lifeblood of charities, and according to the latest salary and demographic figures from the Council on Foundations, it could be a good time to get involved with the industry – especially at a senior level.

The reasons are two-fold. First, the CoF have revealed that the salaries of CEOs and Program Officers have outstripped inflation over the past five years (adding weight to the principle that it ‘pays to give’), and, second, because we are likely to start seeing an exodus of top-level personnel through the natural attritive effect of the ageing process – yes, retirement looms for a substantial proportion of those in the highest positions.

Here are those figures: from the 392 foundations surveyed, CEOs experienced an average salary increase of $16,000 a year, from $160,000 to $176,000. Program Officers also did well, although their increase was a little more modest, up $7,000 from $83,000 to $90,000.

However, grant-maker salaries as a whole were marginally down over the same period. A larger, albeit less reliable, sample of over 960 foundations found that overall pay went down $1,000 a year from $74,000 to $73,000. However, three out of four of those foundations expected to be putting wages up in the next 12 months.

The Council also found that half of the foundations surveyed experienced no staff turnover whatsoever in the past five years, with the corporate sector performing best of all with an overall retention rate of 77%, but this situation is set to change in the near future. This is because 40% of senior employees are over 50 years of age, 17% are over 65 years of age and 6% are already eligible for retirement. So over the next few years, we can expect some attractive opportunities to open up in the senior positions at these foundations.

To round off the demographic findings, three-quarters of the workforce were female, including 55% of CEOs and 77% of Program Officers. However, those statistics only tell half the story as the proportion of female CEOs nosedives to 28% when considering organizations turning over $1bn or more.

In addition, only 8% of CEOs are from ethnic minorities although Program Officers are well-represented at 32%, rising to 45% when looking at $2bn plus turnover foundations. To give some context to these figures, minorities make up 24% of the grant-making workforce as a whole with 10% identified as black, 7% Hispanic and 5% Asian.


Marty Davis is CEO of LEGAL SOLUTIONS GROUP, a team of experienced businesspeople and lawyers who specialize in providing quality and timely legal services. Legal Solutions Group work within the fields of real estate law, business strategy/corporate law and workers’ compensation (employer’s side).

Leave a Reply