Near Silicon Valley, Human Service Nonprofits Fail to Pay Living Wages

The Patch January 29, 2020

A human resources survey conducted by Community Bridges, in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County and the Human Care Alliance of Santa Cruz County (HCA), gives us reason to revisit how nonprofit personnel are faring in a growing economy with historically low unemployment.

From some perspectives, these are good times. A year ago, NPQ’s Steve Dubb took a look at the findings of the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report published by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Civil Society, which found that overall employment in the nonprofit sector was large and growing faster than in for-profit counterparts. Most critically, salaries were higher in the nonprofit sector than they were in similar for-profit organizations.

The HCA’s survey was more limited in scope, covering those in the nonprofit sector who have historically received lower salaries—people in the fields of healthcare and direct services. Even in a tight job market, almost 40 percent of the employees surveyed earn less than California’s minimum wage of $15/hour, slated to take effect next year, an hourly rate often considered as the threshold minimum of a livable wage. About 35 percent reported their household income, including the earnings or their spouse or partner, was less than $35,000 annually. More than 60 percent indicated they needed a second job to balance their budget. Almost half reported they had needed to tap into safety-net programs in order to survive.

In a state where homelessness is a grave problem, more than half of those responding to the survey spent more than 50 percent of their salaries to secure adequate housing. More than half lacked $400 in savings, leaving them vulnerable to emergencies.

Read on