Nonprofit CEOs Are Worth Every Dime

By Betsy Brill on the

When the Chronicle of Philanthropy released its annual report on nonprofit salaries in October 2009, several journalists responded critically by accusing well-compensated nonprofit chief executive officers of being driven by financial gain rather than belief in the cause and by suggesting that these “bloated salaries” represent irresponsible spending by the entire nonprofit sector. (See “Nonprofit Millionaires.”) While this is certainly not the first time a public debate has been waged over nonprofit salaries, this time around the especially harsh allegations of bloated CEO salaries in the nonprofit world seem fueled, in part, by public outrage over of the pay packages earned by corporate executives. This misplaced anger amounts to kicking nonprofits while they’re down.

The Chronicle survey only reflects data from the 325 highest funded nonprofit organizations, and thus represents only .02% of the 1.5 million registered nonprofits operating in the U.S. To suggest that the 30 some nonprofit executives (among them hospital CEOs, NCAA coaches and university presidents) who were paid more than $1 million in 2008 represent the irresponsible management and greed of an entire sector might be laughable if it weren’t also potentially detrimental….

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