How to Create Pay Transparency

The do-gooders at FoodShare implemented a public pay grid and said goodbye to salary negotiations

In April 2017, Paul Taylor was appointed executive director of FoodShare, a non-profit in Toronto that hosts community markets, sells affordable produce boxes, and organizes school nutrition programs. One day, Taylor asked one of his colleagues what food justice meant to her. “She said, ‘Food justice means having decent work,’” Taylor recalls. The comment stung: At the time, FoodShare’s lowest-earning workers were paid minimum wage. “We were supporting communities that had been made vulnerable,” he says, “but we were doing so on the backs of workers who were vulnerable themselves.”

When Taylor joined the organization, FoodShare had a pay grid, but it was inconsistently applied and not accessible to employees. “It wasn’t clear to me that people were being compensated based on a principle of equal pay for equal work,” Taylor says. He sat down with his senior leadership team and by July of 2018, they had rolled out some significant changes to their payment schedules.

A portrait of FoodShare executive director Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor (Photography by Stacey Newman)

First, they created a transparent pay grid and increased wages for individuals at the bottom by 25 per cent. “Employees can see what we compensate for various roles at various levels,” Taylor explains. The organization was able to pay for the wage increases by amplifying its fundraising efforts and boosting sales of its produce boxes. It also nixed salary negotiations altogether, sticking with the wages laid out in the grid. “Opaque salary negotiations do a real disservice to racialized folks, especially racialized women,” Taylor says. According to data from the University of Virginia, when Black applicants negotiate for higher salaries, employers often perceive them as pushier than white applicants who made the same requests.

“People want to work at an organization that reflects their values”

Another change was the introduction of a ratio system, which ensures that the highest-paid worker at FoodShare earns a maximum of three times that of the lowest-paid worker. “We were talking about the effect that growing income inequality has on food insecurity, but we were perpetuating it ourselves. It seemed disingenuous,” Taylor says

The changes have been hugely effective, he says—there’s less turnover, less need for recruitment and less time and energy spent filling vacant positions. The caliber and quality of job candidates have also improved. “People want to work at an organization that reflects their values,” he says. Since it implemented these policies, FoodShare’s staff has grown from 60 full-time equivalent employees in 2018 to more than 100 in 2021, and its annual revenue has grown from $6.4 million in 2018 to $10.7 million in 2020.

Taylor argues that pay transparency should extend into the corporate world but believes that most executives and company owners are too preoccupied with profit to take action on their own. Instead, he says, we need government mandates forcing businesses to update their policies. In the meantime, he’s continued to encourage pay transparency in the non-profit ecosystem. In June of 2021, FoodShare sent out an open letter to the non-profit job board Charity Village asking that it make compensation information mandatory for all job listings posted on its website. Since then, more than 90 organizations have signed the letter, including Greenpeace Canada and Doctors Without Borders.