Board Commitment: Compensation
By Mark D. Burkhardt, Director for Outdoor Ministries, ELCA
Outdoor ministry boards have an important role to play in deciding how staff members will be supported in their work. Board policies regarding compensation and continuing education can make a real difference in the quality of staff member that an organization is able to attract and retain. Outdoor ministries are staff dependent organizations. Quality programs begin with staff members who are motivated to do their best and are encouraged to improve their knowledge and skills on a regular basis.
Question: When is the right time to add a new staff position to your outdoor ministry organization?
Answer: Only when you can provide adequate compensation and benefits for the job you are asking that person to do.
If you can’t provide a solid compensation package now, then it would be better to wait several months until you can put together a better plan. Salary, benefits and housing all need to be given careful consideration. Compensation should be based on comparable salaries in your area for similar positions. Check with other camps, consult the ELCA outdoor ministries staff or look at salaries paid by allied organizations. The benefit package should be consistent with the one offered to other similar employees in your organization. If you are expecting the staff member to live on-site, then housing arrangements should take into account factors like privacy, space and comfort and safety. Staff members should not be expected to live in sub-standard housing.
If you want your outdoor ministry organization to be the best, then your board should consider a continuing education plan for all staff members that encourages them to improve their skills on a regular basis. ELCA outdoor ministry staff members should be participating in a minimum of 25 contact hours of continuing education every year. Outdoor ministry boards can promote staff growth by providing money, time and encouragement. Funding for continuing education is usually a partnership between the employee and the organization. The employee can contribute to their continuing education fund through a payroll deduction plan. Your organization can provide a single, double or even triple match. Along with continuing education funding comes the need for time. Your personnel policies should state the number of days each year that a staff member can use for continuing education. Finally, boards should encourage staff members to take the necessary time to improve themselves. Workers should set annual goals for continuing education. Their success in meeting those goals should be considered as part of their annual performance appraisal.
Outdoor ministry organizations who commit to a well-planned strategy for staff compensation and benefits will benefit from staff members who are motivated and knowledgeable. Your programs and operations will benefit from new ideas and best practices. And, there’s every reason to believe that your staff retention rate will improve as well. Healthy organizations know how to hire, improve and retain the very best staff members available. Is your board committed to building a quality staff? It may be one of the most important commitments you make.