Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey FAQs

What is the Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey?

The Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey (GSB) studies U.S. grantmaker compensation practices. Data is gathered from the field and is analyzed through a partnership with Foundation Center. Survey respondents are asked to provide information on the salary, benefits, and demographics of full-time staff. The Council has continuously conducted this research since 1980. The GSB is considered to be the field standard for understanding grantmaker compensation and benefits, and frequent requests to access the data are made by grantmakers, academic researchers, and consulting firms in human resources, tax or law serving the field. 

How is the data used?

The published report and benchmarking tool are used in a variety of ways to compare grantmaker salary and benefits compensation practices against peers. For example, a large private foundation with over $1 billion in assets recently used the data and the Council’s online benchmarking tool, Benchmark Central (available only to survey participants) to assist in setting a salary offer in their search for a new Program Officer; a mid-size community foundation in the mid-west recently examined data on salary increases to determine what the average raises were for similar foundations in their region as they contemplated their own potential increases. Large law and tax-advisory firms typically use the Council’s report to gauge whether their clients are adhering to IRS guidelines around proper compensation of full-time staff.

What is the source of the data represented in the report?

The data from the report is gathered via an annual survey; it is not pulled from payroll files or other sources. As a result, the strength of the report and ability to benchmark depends on the sector's participation. While the level of participation and resultant data has varied greatly in the several decades in which the Council has conducted this research, the sample size of respondents is significant and accurately represents the sector as a whole. 

How much does the report cost?

Report costs vary depending upon the report you are attempting to access (i.e. the standalone Salary Tables, the Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report, or the 2016 Board Compensation Tables) and are listed in the Research resource page. All of these reports are free to Council members and survey participants. The 2017 Salary Tables are $199 for non-member, non-participants; the full report is $439 for non-member, non-participants.

Why are there so many tables/how is the published report structured?

The data is primarily presented as tables, with a continually evolving set of key findings. The tables are a practical tool to help you locate your organization by foundation type, size, and/or geographic location. Once located, you are able to compare the minimum, 25th percentile, median, mean, 75th percentile, and maximum salaries paid by your peers.

Why are there so many redacted fields?

You will notice many fields within the tables have been redacted. These fields had insufficient numbers of responses. As a result, the data has been withheld to protect the identity of respondents (who might otherwise be identifiable within a given asset band) and to ensure that only data that is a reliable benchmark is presented. Despite being redacted, these fields are left in the tables to provide a sense of whether or not a position is common amongst your peers.

Can I participate?

Organizations that meet the following criteria are eligible to participate:

  • Meet the Council's full voting member eligibility guidelines to ensure optimal benchmarking (Council membership is not a requirement)
  • File annual IRS Form 990s (corporate giving programs excepted)
  • Based in the U.S. (the survey examines U.S. based positions only)
  • Have at least one part-time, paid Executive Director/CEO (employee versus independent contractor)
  • Supporting organizations with independent staff are welcome to participate 

What are the benefits of participation?

Survey participants (Council membership not required) receive a complimentary copy of the report, as well as access to Benchmark Central, the Council's dynamic online benchmarking tool. This tool allows you to directly benchmark your organization to peers in a manner far more robust than the published tables. For instance, you could examine the salary of CEOs at foundations within a specific metropolitan area, and further drill down to those organization of an asset size of your choosing. 

When is the report/data made available?

Effective with the 2018 survey cycle, the survey will field in the spring and results will be released in the fall. The 2018 GSB Survey will be open from April 2nd - May 14th and the results will be released in September. 

Can I obtain a customized report that benchmarks my organization in a way not available in the tables?

Customized reports are available to survey participants (Council members and non-members) within Benchmark Central. Council members and the field may also request custom reports from survey partner Foundation Center, but additional costs may be associated with the request. For more information, please email David Wolcheck at drw@foundationcenter.org.

How do I access the survey and the online benchmarking tool?

Benchmark Central, the Council's survey and benchmarking tool, is accessible only to survey participants. If you are an authorized to access the survey and Benchmark Central (typically senior level HR or Finance staff complete), your login is the same as your Council website login. If you have forgotten your password, click on the “create a new one” link below the login box. Due to the heavy volume of survey activity, we ask that you please attempt these steps first. If problems persist, email research@cof.org for assistance with confirming your account access.

Where does my state fall within the geographic breakdowns in the report?

The GSB report follows the U.S. Census Bureau's Region and Division breakdowns: Census Regions and Divisions of the United States

What info will I need to complete the survey?

Most participants refer to the following documents:

  • Current year's IRS Form 990 (estimates are fine)
  • Organizational budget
  • Payroll reports
  • Benefit summary plan documents
  • Job Descriptions
  • Compensation data from your HR system (current salaries, job titles, reporting relationships, years in position)
  • Last year's survey responses (if relevant)