Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Here we go again...to what end?

The entire issue of congress/state legislatures looking and overseeing nonprofit management salaries drives me a bit nuts.

Here is just the latest example from today's New York Times.

I'm mildly torn: some nonprofit CEO salaries do seem high to me in my tax bracket, but so do pretty much all for-profit CEO salaries. I frankly don't believe any business person is worth multiple millions a year. If I were a shareholder of a corporation that pays that much to top management, I'd be rightly upset.

So, should donors be upset about "high" management salaries for hospitals, universities or national charities? Well, they can be, and they can withhold their donations. That's free enterprise. States and the feds can as well, but for congress (with it's free health care for life, I might add) to decide what's "high", or for a state legislature to limit CEO compensation (for for-profits as well, to be fair, at least in New Jersey) bothers me greatly.

Large nonprofits are, well, large, complex organizations, with thousands of employees and huge assets at risk. The people who run them should be paid according to market scale, with the understanding that the market is somewhat ameliorated by the mission satisfaction of what the organization is doing.

The tragedy of all this discussion is that these legislators are only looking at how to cut cost in a high profile way to get a little PR shelter. Most legislatures have been politically cowardly about balancing their budgets (i.e.raising taxes) for decades and their prior acts are now biting them on the butt. They prefer to distract us all by saying "Look at her! She's paid too much! She works for a charity! Take out your angst on her, not us!"

What about the fact that for hundreds of thousands of staff at smaller nonprofits, salaries (even at the top of the organization) have never been close to even adequate, since the same state and federal officials who now pine over .01% of nonprofit salaries have never considered paying a reasonable rate for the very, very needed services these nonprofits provide so that their employees could live reasonably?

In a society that delegates so many of its toughest problems to the nonprofit sector, shouldn't some consideration be made for the people that work there?

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