2020 Young Farmers Accountability Report Sneak Peek: Compensation Guidelines


This blog post is the first in a series of three sneak peeks we will share in advance of the release of our 2020 Accountability Report in April 2021. Please be on the lookout for our next excerpt, also from the “Racial Equity Transformation” section, focused on Convergence 2020: Achieving Equity through Agriculture.  

Young Farmers staff have been hard at work this year on the first edition of the 2020 Young Farmers Accountability Report. With a plan to publish an updated edition annually, this report will serve as a chronicle of our work to advance racial equity both within our organization and in the agriculture system as a whole. The report begins with an acknowledgement of past harm that may have been suffered by staff, farmers, partner organizations, and members of the agriculture community. We detail how we have taken action–through developing a shared understanding, designing programmatic work with intention, and holding ourselves accountable–toward repairing relationships and fulfilling our objective of being an anti-racist organization in order to create the farm future we all deserve and to be accountable to our communities.

Below, we share an excerpt from the “Racial Equity Transformation” section of the report, which includes an outline of the process by which we designed our 2021 Compensation Guidelines. Our compensation guidelines were created by our co-executive directors in 2019 to provide staff with transparency on compensation decisions and to clarify expectations for advancement. The guidelines signal our intention to eliminate the possibility for inequitable pay based on race, gender, sexual identity, or other protected characteristics by making the compensation decision-making process public, and to ensure salary levels are consistent and commensurate with responsibilities and national standards.

As a food and farming organization of nearly 40 staff, we recognize the opportunity we have to model best practices in the non-profit sector. We are an organization fighting to improve the sustainability of farming livelihoods that are too often undercompensated and undervalued. We are also an organization striving to better represent the full diversity of our farming communities and prioritize the needs of marginalized people within those communities. These points together made it important to make public guidelines that examine salary-setting and work expectations as well as ensure equality for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community on staff.

We know that salary and compensation discussions are often fraught and highly sensitive. White supremacy culture makes aggressive negotiation the norm, and penalizes individuals – particularly Black people – with lower salaries for negotiating more than racially biased white people expect. In 2020, women continue to make 82 cents on the white man’s dollar, and BIPOC women, particularly Black and Latina women, make 62% and 68% of the earnings of white men, respectively. Queer men and transgender women are also at a disadvantage when it comes to salary earnings. Gay men earn 10-32% less than their heterosexual peers, and transgender women face a one-third drop in salary after they transition. While there is very little published on the effect of having intersectional identities (e.g. being a Black, transgender woman) on salary outcomes, the data suggests that existing at the intersection of a number of these marginalized identities would result in even lower wages.

The nonprofit sector is not immune from the pervasive systemic racism that undervalues BIPOC, women, and members of the queer community. Working to undo injustice at this intersection must be central in our efforts to advance racial equity. Every day that organizations ignore this nuanced issue, another opportunity is lost to attract highly talented, creative, and innovative employees to our organizations. Our racial equity transformation included a Human Resources and Operations Audit conducted in 2020 that comprehensively evaluated and updated our internal systems, including revised compensation guidelines. In order to remain relevant in these ever-changing times, we plan to revisit and update our internal and external processes annually by designing and redesigning with intention.

From the 2020 Young Farmers Accountability Report:

Our co-executive directors established compensation guidelines in 2019 that provided transparency for staff on our payscale decisions at each level of the organization. They included the values that comprise our compensation philosophy, factors that identify staff levels (i.e. associate, manager, director, program director, executive), how experience both at the organization and elsewhere contribute to compensation decisions, designated salary ranges for each level, and a location-based compensation adjustment system. This provided clarity for staff, especially on their career mobility at the organization, and reinforced that all staff are considered equal, regardless of race, gender, or sexual identity, and other protected characteristics.

To further our objective of providing pay transparency for all of our employees, we included in the compensation guidelines an update to shift the development of salary negotiation skills to job responsibility negotiation. We have set pay bands such that the negotiation is less about salary figures and more about receiving adequate compensation for the role staff play and responsibilities they hold within the organization. In other words, we are encouraging staff negotiation in a much more transparent context and in a place where staff and management share equal information. Even with these significant changes, we realize this work is not enough. We will continue to work towards a more equitable compensation structure as we revamp the Compensation Guidelines annually.  

We recognize the privilege and fortune we have to continue to employ and adequately compensate Young Farmers staff members in a time when many organizations continue to suffer financially due to the lasting economic effects of COVID-19. We are grateful to our funders who continue to support our work during a time of compounding crises. If you are a BIPOC-led organization in need of fundraising guidance and/or support, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Development Director, Jaklyn Van Manen, at jaklyn@youngfarmers.org.

Join our email list to receive critical actions, resources, and updates.