According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Andrea Fuller, nonprofits are becoming increasingly generous in their executive compensation. A searchable IRS database containing 2014 data, showed more than 2,700 executives received over $1 million in total compensation for that year.
The highest total compensation shown was over $17 million. Most of the top earners were a combination of doctors in various nonprofit hospital systems, and collegiate athletic coaches at private universities such as Duke and Baylor; or, coaches at public universities paid out of a separate auxiliary nonprofit such as Florida. The amounts included both base compensation and total compensation. It’s important to note, that the data could be misleading in a year where an executive retired or took a large deferred compensation payment during that one-year period.
In any regard, pay for executives at both nonprofit charities such as 501(c)(3)s, which was the subject of the article and associations largely 501(c)(6) organizations, is clearly trending upward for top level employees. Many of these organizations are large complex entities and pay must be competitive to attract the talent necessary to operate them. Whether the IRS or contributing public would regard the amounts as excessive is an open question. Any organization would be wise to establish safeguards around CEO pay such as using compensation consultants, comparing their packages against peer organizations, CEO review by independent Board members, and specific performance evaluation criteria for CEOs.
For more information or questions, please contact Craig Stevens at 301.231.6200.