Salary Negotiation in the Arts (2): Add Value

[This article is part of our Salary Negotiation Guide for Arts Professionals. You can also read part 1 on how to deal with the Salary History Question, or part 3 on how to maximize your salary after you receive a job offer.]

Remember: In arts nonprofits, salaries tend to be pretty stagnant. i.e.: there are not lots of bonuses, or performance incentives as in other sectors. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you need to be on your A-game when you first negotiate your salary because it is not likely to change until you get a new position.

If you are looking for a job in the arts or are an established arts professional, there are plenty of online resources for shaping your CV, writing a cover letter, or finding art job postings (check out the free resources like job alerts we offer at ;-).

What you will probably not find, though, is a discussion on how to best present your experience and skills. The best way to do this is summarized in two words: Add Value.

Add Value

Your goal when a hiring manager looks at your CV is to have them think: “I wish I had that for my organization.”

How do you do that? A few guidelines:

  • Try to express your achievements in terms of a measurable impact. Did you save your organization $gazillion? Did your work help attract an important donor? Were you or your work featured in the press?
  • Show how you worked across departments to move the organization forward.
  • Your goals should be your boss’ goals.

Example 1

BLAH: “Designed and lead our entire special event series, with many first time events and high attendee satisfaction.”

GOOD: “Planned and executed 23 galas that were attended by our most distinguished donors and board members.”

GREAT: “Liased with individual donor development manager to integrate special events into leadership society strategy, resulting in an organizational record of 500 new members ($1,000+ per year) and over $250,000 raised.”

Example 2

BLAH: “Provided top-notch customer service as front-house usher.”

GOOD: “Developed processes to increased efficiency at ticketing, which considerably reduced waiting time for our guests.”

GREAT: “In collaboration with our software vendor, designed and implemented new processes that reduced waiting times and increased customer satisfaction. These changes contributed to year over year sales increase of 12%.

At the Interview

The same principles apply when you are interviewing. If you remember from Part 1, your goal is to delay providing your previous salary (which was unfairly low because [pick one]: you really needed the job at the time, you were starting out, you were unfairly given a lower offer which you took in order to get your head in) until you are able to:

  • Make a clear case for how much value you can add to the organization, ideally in terms of $$ made or saved.
  • Find out what their salary range is. (Sometimes, you cannot find this out. But you should be able to find benchmarking data, ask friends of friends that work there, check out this comprehensive resource on nonprofit salaries, or read our Art Careers Guide blog for additional intel 😉

Hopefully, all of this has gone as planned and you have been offered a position. This leads us to Part 3, Salary Negotiation Guide for Arts Professionals: The Offer.

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