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How To Decide Whether To Offer Your Nonprofit Secretary A Salary


As your nonprofit grows and the day-to-day running of your organization becomes more complex, you may be thinking of adding a secretary to your nonprofit board structure to ease the burden. 

However, this particular role has a varying array of responsibilities depending on the NPO, making it difficult to determine what is appropriate for a salary or whether you should offer compensation at all. 

We will equip you with everything you need to know to make a well-informed decision as to what is best for your nonprofit. 

Here are the topics we will address: 


The Nonprofit Secretary Role

Let’s break down the position itself to help you have a greater understanding of the nonprofit secretary's responsibilities, typical duties, and recommended skills. This will allow you to decide how to adapt the role to your organization’s needs. 

Job Description

Like all nonprofit work, being a nonprofit secretary can be an extremely diverse and varied role. The term "secretary" generally refers to the organization of affairs, hence there is a lot of room for interpretation. Generally, this involves serving as administrative assistants, performing clerical duties, and managing internal communications within your nonprofit. 

nonprofit-secretary-salary-roleEllie is writing out the duties for the secretary her nonprofit will be hiring.

Typical Duties

Here are some common job responsibilities that frequently appear within the content of a board secretary's job description

  • Maintaining and organizing paper and electronic documents

  • Updating and sending reports and invoices

  • Transcribing board of directors meeting minutes

  • Answering phone calls from potential donors, members, and event attendees  

  • Performing various communications on behalf of the organization, such as letters and emails

  • Scheduling appointments for meetings and other events

  • Facilitating general administrative maintenance that may involve operating nonprofit management software like Springly

Required Skills

Depending on the duties that correspond to your secretary's job description, there are many skills required to successfully complete administrative assistant duties. However, there are some that are standard for the role: 

  • Technical skills

    • Proficiency with office software, including packages such as Microsoft or Google 

  • Ability to utilize your organizational software of choice 

  • Communication skills

    • Adept at coherently creating letters, invitations, emails, and other written correspondence

  • Verbally communicate needs, instructions, and information with and to donors, members, volunteers, and visitors as well as internal employees and board members

  • Listening skills

    • Receive information from board meetings, staff, and guests in order to prepare proper board minutes and correspondence. 

  • Organizational skills

  • Detail-oriented nature is necessary for managing files, scheduling events properly, and generally efficiency

  • People skills

    • Talented at communicating with staff and donors for various reasons

  • Research skills

  • Ability to research when necessary to help ensure legal compliance or locate other important data content, forms, or publications. 


Volunteer or Paid Secretary?

Before making any determinations regarding your secretary’s salary, the first step is to determine whether you will need to employ a paid member of staff for the role or whether you can rely on the service of a long-term volunteer. 

A major factor in this determination may be the size of your nonprofit or charity. A large organization requires a lot more work to fulfill the duties of administrative support personnel and often has a budget more conducive to offering compensation for board member positions. 

Nonetheless, there are pros and cons no matter which choice you make. Let’s take a look at what some of those are.

Pros & Cons of a Volunteer Secretary


  • Budgeting - You will not have to allocate a budget to handle the payment for this role which means that your funds can be spent promoting your mission.

  • Public Perception - If you have a suitable long-term volunteer, utilizing their service in a Secretary position will allow donations to go further for the cause, which can be beneficial in the eyes of members and donors. 

  • Motivation - When a volunteer is willing to fill your secretary role, you can be sure that this person wants to perform social good and believes in your mission. Therefore, they will likely be willing to put forth the effort to do the work expecting only the warm fuzzies that come with making a difference as their expectation. 

  • Legal Compliance - When making use of non-paid board roles, you will not have to worry about walking the line of legal compliance as there are specific rules governing that process that must be observed. 

Blog_Images-articles-reflectionOliver is contemplating the pros and cons of a volunteer secretary.


  • Time Constraints - As they will not be receiving income, a volunteer secretary will more than likely have a job outside of their role with your organization. That may make it so the secretary is less available for job duties. 

  • Reliability - Another risk you face is increased absenteeism because of outside jobs, this would be less of a risk for a salaried employee. 

  • Turn-over - People lead busy lives and while a secretary may love volunteering for your organization, as a non-income position, it is far more likely that life will force board roles to step down from leadership to focus on issues outside the nonprofit sector. 

Pros & Cons of a Paid Secretary


  • Full-Time Incentive - Having a salary means that your secretary is less likely to have to work a full-time job outside of your organization. This income means they can dedicate themselves to your organization in a greater capacity and can focus on performing the job to the best of their abilities.

  • Improved Quality - Attaching compensation to the role may result in an employee who can spend more time on the job responsibilities for your organization. Because of the increased time spent, the overall quality of the work may be higher. 

  • Highly-qualified Leaders - Nonprofit employers that offer salaries find a great pool of quality prospects, as the incentive draws more educated, experienced, and reputable people that may otherwise not be able to serve on a volunteer basis. Many applicants may have a bachelor's degree or higher education and are more likely to exemplify leadership abilities, related job skills, and technological know-how which can be of great benefit to your organization.    

  • Rewards Effort - Providing monetary compensation for work is a great way to reward exemplary effort and hard-working individuals and the same is true for board members, like your secretary. Even if your organization opts out of providing a salary, there are other means of compensation at your disposal, such as reimbursing expenses that can show an appreciation for the work.


  • Loss of Immunity - Some states have regulations that exclude paid board members from incorporation immunity in the event your nonprofit faces a lawsuit. 

  • Member Expectations - Except for some nonprofits such as healthcare organizations that require highly skilled board members, nonprofits can receive pushback from members, donors, or the general public for providing compensation for board roles. Choosing to do so may require education on your part to overcome this pervasive, and unfair, stereotype. 

  • Budgeting - As you will have to allocate resources for a salary, paying a salary affects your bottom line and budgeting plans. This is also the major reason that members and donors can disapprove of compensation.

  • Conflicts of Interest - A major concern of the IRS, having a board member salary increases the risk of conflict of interest or perceived conflicts of interest. When a member of your board receives compensation, the organization becomes even more responsible for knowing about, reviewing, and approving any potential conflicts of interest. 


What is the Average Nonprofit Secretary Salary

The average nonprofit secretary's salary is approximately $47,000 with a vast overall range of $10,000 to over $170,000 dollars. 

The major factors determining the pay scale are the size and location of the nonprofit, as well as increased responsibilities attached to the role.


Other Important Points Regarding Secretary Salaries

If you choose to provide compensation for your board secretary, keep in mind the following rules and regulations that come into play before you begin your search:

  • The salary must be considered reasonable and fair by the IRS. Excessive pay can result in penalties. 

  • At least 65% of your budget should be for programming expenses, which includes salaries. Of course the lower that number, the better. 

  • If you pay your secretary more than $600 a year, you must provide them with an IRS Form 1099. 

  • Procedures and guidelines for your intent to supply secretary compensation should be included in your articles of incorporation and bylaws. 

Consult with FLSA laws to learn more about specific regulations including topics such as a base hourly rate, record-keeping, and other guidelines for an employer. Make sure you have done the proper research and met all requirements before you name a secretary to your board. 


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