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?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The more things change....

Yesterday, I had a great day working with the annual learning event for Ronald McDonald House Charities, a session I've had the good fortune to speak to three or four years running. The staff and board of local Ronald McDonald Chapters from the US and Canada are here, and they are a terrific and fun group of people.

I talked a bit about being a mission-based manager in the morning and then about innovation in the afternoon, and the group was responsive and attentive, even when they were tired in the afternoon.

What intrigued me were the one on one questions during the break. Here's the breakout:

"My board president is too controlling" (3 CEOs)
"My CEO doesn't give the board enough to do." (2 Board Presidents--and no, I don't know if they were the same agencies as the CEO's above!)

"My CEO doesn't ask for enough staff input (2 younger staff)
"My 20 something staff just want to have input on everything!" (4 boomer CEOs)

This is a pretty standard breakout these days of questions from a large group. The first set-regarding board-staff balance--hasn't changed in the 30 years I've been consulting, and I suspect never really will. The second set is coming to a head as more young staff enter the workforce and demand/expect a seat at the decision table.

Today, I go talk to the board representatives. Should be interesting to see what they ask....

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

For Your Online Viewing....

Two places you can find me online today:

First, the July issue of the Mission-Based Management Newsletter is up. This issue's topic is "Evaluating Volunteers". You can also scroll down and see past single-topic issues. Subscription is free, if you like what you see.

This summer, I'm also doing a bit of blogging for Serenic Software on nonprofit issues. You can see my first couple of posts here.

If you're in the Eastern US, stay cool!