The Founder and Paying Yourself

For the first year and a half of founding The Library Project, I did not formally pay myself. I only gave myself enough to cover monthly expenses and nothing more. This amounted to about $250 a month. Looking back, that was insane, but I’m sure, if you’re a Founder of a nonprofit, and you’re reading this, you empathize with the situation that I was in.

Let me be clear . . .

. . . pay yourself; or at the very least, create a plan to begin paying yourself in the near-term based on pre-determined fundraising milestones being achieved.

By the end of 2008, I was paying myself a steady $500 a month, and it felt great. I wasn’t putting money into savings, but it was enough to live on.

I was working every waking hour, seven days a week, and had very little social life. I lived out of a suitcase going from rural elementary school to “big city” looking for anyone that would listen to our story. I made sure I had a meeting lined up for breakfast, lunch and dinner so that I could expense everything.

These expensed meetings both kept me alive, and in turn provided the necessary funds needed to keep the organization going.

I’m not implying that $500 a month, or $6,000 a year, is an acceptable amount of money to make as the Founder of a nonprofit organization; absolutely not! What I’m saying is, and I’m saying this clearly, it should have been more. I was bringing far more than $500 of value, and you probably are too.

Talk to your Board of Directors about this. Create clear metrics for wage increases, and review them at every Board meeting. Your Board members will understand, and they will appreciate you bringing this up to them.

Don’t be afraid to pay yourself.