Should Nonprofits Be Mandated to Pay Living Wages, and What is Philanthropy’s Role?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 -
2:30pm to 5:00pm EST
Philanthropy New York, 79 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor, NYC
Members of PNY & Partner Orgs: 
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Leaders in nonprofits, government and philanthropy are united on the idea that nonprofit organizations – all of which aim to improve communities and enrich society – should not contribute to the cycle of poverty by paying its workers wages so low that they are unable to sustain their families.  While there is near unanimous agreement on this point, there is considerable debate over how to ensure that nonprofits can maintain their current levels of service and also pay their workers a self-sufficiency wage (aka “Living Wage”).

At a Philanthropy New York funders briefing on September 24, sponsored by The New York Community Trust, The New York Women’s Foundation and PNY’s Funders of Women and Girls working group, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies’ (FPWA) CEO, Jennifer Jones Austin announced a joint initiative with the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) to advocate for City and State governments to revise their nonprofit contracting practices in a manner that would increase funding to human service organizations so that low-paid workers start out with a living wage and are provided access to education and training programs similar to those available in healthcare and education fields that would allow for career progression. FPWA and FPI have produced research showing the positive implications of this proposal for vast numbers of New Yorkers, especially some of the most vulnerable nonprofit workers, who are predominantly women of color.

The FPWA’s initiative is an important one, but only one possible approach to the problem.  Seattle, for example, has passed an across-the-board mandatory living wage of $15 for all employers – for-profit and nonprofit alike – that is currently being phased in. Should New York’s philanthropic and nonprofit sectors be concentrating on this “holistic” approach rather than just focusing on human service organizations and the changes in government contracts that would respond FPWA’s approach?

We also need to consider and address potential barriers to nonprofits getting the resources they need to pay self-sufficiency wages based on existing practices maintained by both government and philanthropy.  While government bears most of the burden of ensuring that nonprofits have the resources they need to pay self-sustaining wages, philanthropy also plays a critical role that needs further examination.

In this “Part 2” discussion of “Nonprofits and the Living Wage,” we are thrilled to have a panel that will look at all of the major dimensions of the challenge to getting to ultimate goal of self-sustaining wages for all workers.


  • Existing barriers to, and resources necessary for, nonprofits paying self-sustaining wages
  • Different approaches to achieving this goal
  • If the philanthropic sector is partially complicit in keeping wages below self-sustaining levels for nonprofit workers?
  • The role the philanthropic organizations should play in both their own giving and communications with government.


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All interested funders.


3:10 - 3:30 Check-in

3:30 - 5:00 PM Program

Registration is required by November 4th.

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