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NNEDV Announces Economic Justice and Domestic Violence Advisory Council Advocate Compensation Recommendations

April 24, 2023

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is pleased to announce advocate compensation recommendations from our Economic Justice and Domestic Violence Advisory Council (“the Council”), which is made possible through generous funding from NNEDV’s longtime partners at The Allstate Foundation. Read the full recommendations here.

The Council is a long-term, in-depth collaboration of national experts in the domestic violence field (listed below) working to advance survivors’ economic empowerment and financial well-being. NNEDV virtually gathered those working at the intersection of domestic violence and economic justice to identify gaps and strategize ways to expand awareness and solutions through recommendations. Ultimately, the Council aims to inform public policy advocacy and program design, in addition to highlighting resource gaps and emerging issues.

After initially gathering in 2020 and releasing Workplace Protection recommendations in 2022, the Council announces three recommendations regarding advocate compensation, summarized below and available in full here.

Recommendation: Every domestic violence program and service provider should work towards insisting on nothing less than a living wage for all employees.

Domestic violence advocacy is difficult work, which often requires navigating complex issues, necessitating a broad skill set and an understanding of community resources; yet, many frontline advocates (those working directly with survivors at local programs) do not make enough money to support themselves and a family. It is common for them to report holding a second or third job in order to make ends meet.

Currently, the average advocate pay (as of October 2022) is $32,717 per year ($15.73 per hour), with a range of $29,000-$36,500 per year. However, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the national “housing wage” (the wage needed to afford housing) is $53,705 per year ($25.82 per hour) for a modest two-bedroom rental, or $44,200 per year ($21.25 per hour) for a modest one-bedroom rental.

Additionally, occupational segregation is a contributing factor to lower wages and a major factor behind the pay gap. Women and men tend to work in different kinds of jobs. Women are disproportionately represented in education, office and administrative support, and health care occupations. Women of Color are particularly segregated to lower-paying fields. Men are disproportionately represented in construction, maintenance and repair, and production and transportation occupations, which generally pay more. Even though a pay gap exists within nearly every occupational field, jobs traditionally associated with men tend to pay better than traditionally female-dominated jobs that require the same level of skill. The work that women do is valued less than work done by men, including in (for example) the domestic violence field.

It is also important to recognize that many frontline advocates not only experience financial insecurity but also may identify as survivors of domestic violence. One Texas study of 530 intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault professionals found that 58% of participants reported experiencing trauma as a child, and 50% reported experiencing trauma as an adult. Organizations should explore whether their current human resource policies truly support their staff who may be currently experiencing abuse. Policies may include: reporting practices, mental and psychiatric health support, paid protective leave and emergency leave, and workplace stalking intervention and prevention strategies. Furthermore, overtime, flextime, and paid leave policies should be available and as flexible as possible to encourage self-care and advance staff retention efforts.

Recommendation: State, territorial, federal, and private foundation funders should insist that every grantee pay a living a wage and be willing to support a living wage with use of their funds.

Some states and territories allow domestic violence coalition and local program employees to participate in certain state and territorial benefits. Employees need benefits beyond the basic; these should include things like childcare support, transportation and gas reimbursement, counseling and psychiatric care, education and tuition reimbursement, executive and career coaching, paid family and medical leave, and financial and estate planning support.

Some state and territorial coalitions and legislation groups can operate as gatekeepers to innovative solutions, grants, and legislation opportunities that help build advocates’ capacity. It is important for state administrators and legislators to determine how to ensure information and resources trickle down effectively to the local programs and communities they are serving, especially, smaller People of Color-led organizations and initiatives. State administrators and legislators should continue to earmark funding and resource allocation for culturally specific and systematically oppressed groups.

Federal policymakers and foundations must promote survivor leadership by insisting on a living wage so they can stay in the field to gain experience, and Congress should take up and pass legislation that addresses equal pay, use of prior salary history, and occupational segregation.

Foundations should consider trust-based funding. Larger and more established organizations tend to get the most benefit with requests for proposals (RFPs) and grant solicitation opportunities. However, there are amazing survivor-led grassroots initiatives that are left out because they do not operate with the same capital. These grassroots organizations are forced to compromise their integrity or goals to secure fiscal sponsorship by larger organizations. It is important for policymakers and foundations to actively seek out these grassroots organizations and determine how to better support them in accessing resources.

Finally, foundations tend to fund direct service work. While this is important, many organizations can benefit from additional funding for administrative, organizational capacity building, and general operations. We encourage foundations to explore how they can develop multi-year RFPs and funding opportunities for this area so organizations can obtain the resources they need to address advocate compensation, benefits, and turnover.

Recommendation: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) statements must include markers for improvement, which should incorporate salary and racial assessments.

Recently, the term “diversity and inclusion” has become a common phrase used in many workplaces. It is the result of employers and companies beginning to understand that more needs to be done to include and advance employees of color.

The domestic violence movement has its own work to be done in this area. Positions of power and higher pay are often held by white women, who often have the ability to stay in the movement longer and work their way up, given their increased access to generational wealth made possible due to institutional racism. Lack of diversity and racial equity has long been a deserved criticism of this movement. Increasing pay, especially for frontline staff, and improving benefits are two steps in addressing this glaring disadvantage and inequity. Paying an actual living wage will provide space and support for Women of Color to thrive within the movement.

Additionally, advocates of color report experiencing additional emotional burnout and field departure due to microaggressions, which often impact advocates’ real, true access to high positions and advancement within the organization. Microaggressions are significantly associated with secondary traumatic stress, which is sometimes called an occupational version of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is associated with negative health outcomes and employee turnover. In the aforementioned Texas study, 30.7% of participants reported witnessing or experiencing a race- or ethnicity-based microaggression at work, and 15.3% reported witnessing or experiencing a sexual orientation-related micro-aggression at work

Finally, turnover intention (a reported willingness to leave a job within a given period of time) is significantly associated with race and ethnicity. In another Texas survey, Black advocates reported higher turnover intention. Additionally, turnover and lack of retention leads not only to survivors reporting frustration with the services they receive, but they are also related to lower salaries and lower satisfaction with supervisory situations. Programs also tend to be slow to rehire and fill positions in large part because the pay is so low; this again results in services suffering and remaining staff being overworked while filling the gap.

NNEDV is committed to lifting up our partners working at this intersection and our shared goal to end gender-based violence where it exists. Find the full advocate compensation recommendations here.

Thank you to the Economic Justice and Domestic Violence Advisory Council members for your time, energy, and commitment to this important work:

Member Organizations:



  • Leila Wood, PhD MSSW, University of Texas Medical Branch