As many are reviewing their year-end charitable giving as 2012 comes to a close, reports indicate that a number of non-profit organizations that seek to provide assistance to impoverished, orphaned and destitute children often reserve a significant percentage of the donations received for the salaries of their CEO’s and other top executives.
In an article entitled Did You Know That Some Children’s Charity CEOs Earn Nearly $0.5 Million Per Year? author Eugene Emmer outlines the annual salaries of some of the world’s most well-known and supported charities dedicated to feeding poor children.
“You have often seen the advertisements on television with photos of children in dire poverty requesting you to sponsor a child. The truth is that there are many children around the world that need urgent help and there are many excellent organizations that provide much needed assistance,” he writes. “But do you realize that the executives of these organizations earn, in many cases, 5 or 10 times more than what you earn?”
All charitable organizations are required to file Form 990 with the IRS each year, and most entities post a link to the form on their website, so that it may be viewed by their supporters and the general public. Form 990 outlines both the gross receipts of the organization as well as the salaries of the members on the company board, including the president and CEO.
Christian News Network researched the information, and as of 2011, the latest form available online, Children International was among the top-paying organizations, endowing its CEO James R. Cook with a $456,579 salary. Richard E. Stearns of the popular charity World Vision made $379,861, and Wesley K. Stafford of Compassion International took home at least $273, 125 last year. William F. Horan, COO of Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing, earned $337,457.
On the lower end of the scale included organizations such as Kids Alive International, which paid its CEO Alfred Lackey $144,939 in 2010 and Children’s Hope Chest, whose CEO Robert Mudd received $90,140. Salvation Army National Commander William A. Roberts makes $126,920 according to the latest figures from the Better Business Bureau, up significantly from W. Todd Bassett’s salary in 2006.
Other popular organizations that often partner with department stores, which ask for donations on their behalf, have also been discovered to have large salaries. According to the website Charity Navigator, David McKee, CEO of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, had a salary of $522,334 as of June 2011.
“I also would like to see a CEO salary more in line with the $150k per year charity average than the $380k they currently pay,” an anonymous supporter wrote on the Charity Navigator website in a review of the Christian charity World Vision. “I often wonder if I am paying $35 per month to the benefit of my sponsored child or to the $380k per year benefit of a CEO.”
Lisa Ward, a Children International sponsor, also wrote, “I too am saddened to hear about the CEO making so much money for an agency helping some of the poorest of the poor, supported by hard working Americans who make no where near that salary. I want to continue my support for the children, but hope the agency looks at how they can be harming themselves in making such decisions.”
However, some have stated that it is necessary that CEOs receive a six-figure income.
“To the people that comment about Wes’s salary being high, ask him and he’d tell you he’d work for less,” wrote a commenter who identified only as pbear. “However, his salary affects everyone else’s below him. To get skilled people in some of these positions, for example, in IT, you have to be able to pay a decent wage. Wes sponsors children and puts a lot of money back into the organization. He also wrote a book and every penny went to Compassion.”
“I find it amusing to hear people complaining about a CEO making $200,000 per year while responsible for a program with a budget of over 1/3 of a billion dollars annually,” wrote another supporter who had no problem with the wages provided by the charitable organization. “Go out in the ‘real’ world and try to hire someone to run this organization for less than five times this CEO’s salary and see what success you have. You could not get a secular person to take this job for less than $1,000,000/year, not even including profit sharing and bonuses.”
While many continue to disagree about whether it is right or wrong for organizations that seek to help the sick, impoverished and orphaned to provide large salaries to their CEOs, most suggest first doing prior research on the charity before making a donation.
“Many charities actually put a small percentage of contributions toward their stated cause. By doing your homework, you can weed these out and you may even come up with a new list of worthy charities you previously wouldn’t have considered,” suggests writer Bill Bischoff. “You owe it to yourself to become acquainted with a charity’s financial practices before you give it any money. Just a little bit of extra effort can make all the difference in how heartily you pull out your checkbook.”
Non-profit organizations such as Orphan’s Tear, run by its parent company Heaven’s Family, and ChildCry, operated by the late Pastor David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church, state that 100% of all donations go directly to assisting needy children.