Our Approach to Compensation at Soccer Without Borders
“Soccer Without Borders is a caring community of people who are thoughtful not only about the change we want to make in the world, but how we reflect that change in ourselves.”
- SWB Co-Founder, Mary Connor
Soccer Without Borders was founded in 2006 with a lofty vision of a more inclusive world where all youth reach their inherent potential, and a mission to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change with underserved youth. For four years, we were a small team of dedicated volunteers working to create an outsized impact on a shoestring budget. Sport-for-development was barely a sector, let alone a career path. Every year and every step between then and now, we have been grounded by a sense of humility and gratitude for the contributions of thousands of stakeholders. Many have donated money, time, equipment, or other resources. Many have driven hundreds of miles to get kids to the field. Countless people have stepped up to help us navigate enumerable challenges that come with growing a charitable organization from scratch.
Our four core values - equity, authenticity, a process-oriented approach, and a focus on the whole person - guide how we invest our resources. As a mission-driven organization, first and foremost we invest in creating impact with and for the communities we serve. We utilize our resources to eliminate as many barriers to participation as possible, and aim to create advancement and employment pathways within the communities we serve. Our team of staff are essential in creating impact and addressing barriers, and as a result we invest more than 85% of our financial resources in our people every year.
In setting compensation and benefits, SWB commits to fulfilling the following objectives:
1. WE LIVE OUR VALUES:
Authenticity: We work in vulnerable communities that are experiencing joblessness, underemployment, food insecurity, and poverty, among other systemic injustices and inequities. SWB staff must understand and be thoughtful about the use of limited resources.
Focus on the Whole Person: We value the health and well-being of all staff, and aim to offer a meaningful, holistic experience including fair wages, essential benefits, flexibility, autonomy, and a caring and supportive workplace culture. We offer generous and flexible vacation time without accrual limitations throughout the year, and family, medical, and sabbatical leave policies that aim to value both the staff member on leave as well as the staff members – often those in more junior positions with lower pay - who provide coverage during this time.
Process-oriented Approach: We constantly strive to improve working conditions – including wages - advancing our collective goals as a staff and meeting individual needs. We continually reexamine and grow wages and benefits in proportion to the organizational growth overall.
Equity: We believe that every contribution to the mission has essential value, and that no role could stand alone. No level of employment at SWB will have an average wage of more than 1.5x the next immediate level. The highest paid employee will earn no more than 3x the average full-time employee wage. We disaggregate compensation data by gender, race, ethnicity, level, and location, and we work to rectify any disparities as quickly as is reasonably possible.
2. WE AIM TO INCLUDE ALL STAFF MEMBERS ACQUIRING, ALLOCATING, AND MANAGING OUR RESOURCES:
We believe that every staff member can contribute to growing our financial resources. From collecting impact data and stories, to effectively stewarding budgets, to seeking in-kind donations, to cultivating new relationships, to actively maintaining partner and funder relationships, to crowdfunding and event participation, to direct fundraising and grant-writing, together we can continue to expand our available resources.
We recognize that in order to keep pace with inflation and cost of living, we must constantly grow our revenue. To do this, we must also add additional fundraising capacity through a mobilized workforce or additional positions.
As an organization serving vulnerable populations with few resources, we must create a culture of self-awareness, openness, and understanding when it comes to discussing financial matters. This must be modeled and led by those in positions of real and perceived power to ensure approachability.
We aim to create avenues for participation in budgeting and visioning for all full-time staff, and ensure that decisions directly affecting the compensation and benefits of staff include input from a representative cross-section of perspectives.
3. WE AIM TO INCORPORATE AND CREATE NEW BEST PRACTICES FOR AN EQUITABLE WORKPLACE
We believe that a strong staff culture that elevates our greater purpose can motivate staff to perform at their best.
Outside of identifying and clarifying the exceptions below, we do not engage in individual negotiations over compensation. We believe that negotiation disproportionately benefits those with privileges of language, access, proximity, and identity. Compensation is set by the position and the work performed, not by the individual needs and wants of the person holding the position.
We are continually seeking to learn best practices around transparency, and seek to create an environment that balances an individual’s privacy with mutual understanding and a sense of fairness.
As a general rule, we do not compare ourselves to or look to the for-profit sector for best practices. We are always looking for better practices and new ideas, and encourage staff to do the same. This position stems from a belief that, as a whole, the for-profit sector’s policies have accelerated the income and wealth inequality in the world today, particularly when it comes to valuing the work of historically marginalized populations internationally and domestically.
We understand that staff may desire more compensation and benefits, and may consider other employment options if Soccer Without Borders cannot meet these expectations. We set longevity goals for each position type and assess our compensation policy effectiveness against these goals, not against individual departures. We understand that not every position is designed to be a long-term fit, and aim for every staff member to gain new skills, make a meaningful mission contribution, and feel valued during their time with SWB. We collect and disaggregate exit information by staff demographics and other variables to detect patterns and ensure that we have a nuanced understanding of how compensation and benefits affect exit decisions.
4. IN ASSESSING PERFORMANCE, WE VALUE IMPACT, OWNERSHIP, AND FIT
While we have concrete program objectives that are tracked and measured, we also understand that in youth development there is much that is out of our control. Our values, mantras and principles for effective staff members outline the qualities – tangible and intangible – that make a staff member successful and will lead to advancement based on performance.
Different roles have different expectations and responsibilities.
We value an authentic team culture in which staff members with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and lived experience work collaboratively to advance our common purpose. We prioritize retention of team members who reliably fulfill their role, support their teammates, and contribute to the best of their ability every day.