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2017 National Compensation Study for Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations

June 20, 201820 June 2018

Human resources in the arts and culture / Diversity and equity

Canada Council for the Arts


Cultural Human Resources Council and Mercer Canada

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Based on a national survey to which 436 arts organizations responded in late 2017, this report provides information about salaries and benefits in 21 management and administrative positions in Canadian not-for-profit arts organizations. Appendixes to the report provide position profiles and salary details by position, size, and region of the country.

The 436 respondents represent about 10% of all organizations targeted to complete the survey. As is the case for all surveys where organizations self-select whether to respond, there is uncertainty as to whether the responses provide a representative sample of all arts organizations in Canada. It appears that Quebec-based organizations are over-represented in the sample (accounting for 38% of respondents but only 23% of the Canadian population). For the same reason, as well as the differing number of respondents over time, comparisons to a similar 2008 survey (with 219 respondents) should be viewed with caution.

The most commonly-reported position among arts organizations is Executive Director or General Manager (reported by 373 of the 436 responding organizations). The median salary (i.e., “base pay”) for arts-sector Executive Directors or General Managers was $60,900 in 2017, significantly lower than the median in all not-for-profit organizations ($226,000) and other areas of the economy ($344,500).

The second most commonly-reported position among arts organizations was “Director / Manager, Marketing / Communications” (151 of the 436 respondents). The median salary for arts-sector marketing or communications managers or directors was $51,400 in 2017, also significantly lower than the median in all not-for-profit organizations ($136,000) and other areas of the economy ($154,600).

It should be noted that arts organizations tend to be smaller than organizations in other not-for-profit sectors and other areas of the economy. However, even among arts organizations with operating budgets over $5 million, median salaries ($179,700 for Executive Directors / General Managers and $93,200 for marketing or communications managers or directors) are lower than in other types of organizations.

Compared with other sectors of the economy, the arts sector also does not fare well in other areas of human resources:

  • “The average employee voluntary turnover rate in 2017 was calculated to be 13.3%”, which is well above the average of 7.1% in other sectors of the economy.
  • “The scope and frequency of benefits offered across the cultural sector are disproportionately lower than what is offered in other sectors.”
  • The prevalence of retirement savings plans is also lower than in other sectors.

On the other hand, most arts organizations (including 73% of those with budgets under $1 million) offer flexible work arrangements.

The top human resource priority among responding organizations was “understaffing / overwork” (cited by 53% of respondents), followed by “career advancement opportunities” (22%), “compensation / benefits” (18%), and “succession planning / leader transition” (17%). Key management challenges include “excessive workloads and resource constraints”. The report notes that “smaller arts organizations … feel especially stretched due to their budget constraints”.

The salary statistics show that arts organizations with larger budgets generally pay higher salaries. Organizations in Ontario and Quebec tend to have higher compensation levels than those in other regions, but Ontario and Quebec-based organizations also tend to be larger than those in other regions. For arts organizations with operating budgets between $1 million and $5 million, “British Columbia and the Prairies tend to lead compensation practices for certain positions”. There was no clear regional trend for organizations with budgets between $250,000 and $1 million.

Regarding benefits, “larger organizations are two to three times more likely to offer a comprehensive benefits package than smaller organizations”. In fact, each of nine types of health-related benefits are offered by less than one-third of organizations with budgets under $1 million. Some of the same benefits (life insurance, extended health, long-term disability, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance) are offered by more than 70% of organizations with budgets over $1 million.

The report concludes that, "if base salaries and overall compensation packages cannot keep up with market trends, it could represent a risk to organizations within the sector for increased turnover in staff, as well as workload ‘burnout’.”

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