How about 1.5 million dollars? Because that’s what it’ll take to pay the 2009 annual salary of the Boy Scouts‘ CEO. That’s right, he receives (I cannot use the word “earns”), $1,577,000 for his efforts. If I’d known there’d be big money leading a paramilitary-looking youth group …
But it’s not just the Boy Scouts’ CEO who’s rolling in the donations of folks willing to contribute to a good cause. The Museum of Modern Art’s CEO is paid $1.26 million. And I thought the “arts” crowd was wealthy!
The Wildlife Conservation Society only pays it’s CEO $628,000. Those folks are animals! Have they no shame that their CEO is having to live in a tent at a campground? And show up at MOMA’s fundraisers so he can eat free off the buffet table?
Yes, it’s that time of year again when the United Way comes around asking me to pledge to their campaign. And for folks like me who think a contribution should actually go primarily to programs and services and not administrative costs, there are some resources to guide my decisions.
Such as Charity Navigator’s recently released annual survey of CEO pay at the top 5,500 U.S.-based charities. This report slices and dices charitable CEO pay in all sorts of ways. Quite revealing.
If you’re interested in averages, then it’s the Mountain West that brings up the rear with about $127,000. The leader of the pack is of course the Northeast, with $194,000. But averages are misleading. I wish they’d have used the “median” for each region instead.
Another interesting perspective is by the charity’s purpose. Health charities’ CEOs aren‘t too healthy, with a $161,000 average. Even Arts/Culture/Humanities pay their CEO a respectable $204,000 average. They say knowledge is power, but it’s also very green with an average of $263,00 for Education charities’ CEOs.
All these high salaries contribute to high administrative costs. That’s very important to me. Because if I’m donating my money, I hold charities to a much higher standard than the private sector.
So of course I’ll not be contributing to the Masonic Homes of California, which has an administrative cost rate of 45%. Nor to the Association of Firefighters and Paramedics, which manages to spend all of 3% of its $3 million budget on programs and services. Then there’s the National Breast Cancer Foundation, whose board of four relatives with the same last name is pulling down from $80,000 to $126,000 each. (But then they say that charity begins at home…)
As for the United Way, I have a 33-page booklet which lists each organization’s administrative costs. I can’t believe how some of these charities stay in business. Donors must be overlooking the administrative cost factor for the “feel good” factor that they’re “helping the unfortunate.”
In my area, for example, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has just under 19% administrative cost. The local Urban League is at 18%. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tallahassee is 20.5%. The Florida Special Olympics is at 23%.
Many health charities are anemic in keeping administrative costs low. Children’s Cancer Assistance Fund is 19%. Florida Alzheimer’s Foundation is just over 23% and the Autism Society of Florida is just under that. The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is 24%. Breast Cancer Relief Foundation is almost 30%!
Conservation groups don’t always conserve your donation. Administrative cost for the Alaska Conservation Foundation is almost 24%; it’s 22% for the Clean Water Fund; 23% for Defenders of Wildlife.
But there are a number of charities putting most of your money to use outside the office. Bless the Children, Help the Children and International Relief Teams use over 99% of their funds for services. As does the Salvadoran American Humanitarian Foundation. Soles 4 Souls uses over 98% of its funds to provide shoes worldwide.
In the end, the decision is often personal not logical. When my father was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, he was able to live out his last few months at home thanks to his local hospice.
We know a number of folks who have benefited from our local hospice. And we’re all going to die, so if it’s not going to be sudden then Susie and I may very well need hospice one day. So, for many years now, I’ve always contributed to the local hospice even though it’s administrative rate is about 13.5%.
And that’s where my donation is going this year too. But next year, I may just donate directly to them and avoid the United Way’s 15% “middle man” administrative cut. I don’t care about how my employer “looks” in the United Way campaign; getting the most money to services is what’s important.
Speaking of “looks”, the United Way campaign kick off at my agency had a Hawaiian theme. In keeping with the theme, there were a number of contests. I won the men’s “Best Hawaiian Shirt” contest with an authentic shirt I bought at Hilo Hattie’s when we were in Hawaii many years ago.
My prize was a Chick Filet basket with free sandwich and milkshake coupons and numerous logo items, such a pen and keychain with mini-flashlight. My favorite is an insulated lunch tote. With a small freezer pack in there, I can bring my lunch to work and not need to put it in a refrigerator, which seems to be quite full these days.