Six-figure salaries

Posted on 31 Mar 2009 at 3:42pm

The Washington Blade, in its March 27 issue, ran this story that is an in-depth comparison of the salaries of executive directors at 30 of the largest LGBT nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles, as well as some larger regional organizations, like Equality California.

The story has been getting a lot of attention, with some EDs coming under fire for what many see as exorbitant salaries, especially when the nonprofits they run are feeling the financial crunch of recession.

The Blade’s front cover has photos of nine EDs, their names, the organizations they work for and their salaries (including benefits packages). Joe Solmonese, ED at the Human Rights Campaign, is first on the list: His total compensation last year was $338,400.

It may seem especially egregious in comparison, say, to the total compensation for Mara Keisling, ED at the National Center for Transgender Equality, which came in at $82,321.

But then, you read the Blade’s editorial on its “Forum” page, which notes that the top executive’s pay accounts for 3.32 percent of the average nonprofit’s budget.

And then you look at the chart accompanying the story: Turns out that Solmonese’s nearly $400,000 compensation package made up only 0.82 percent of HRC’s annual budget of $41.4 million, well below that cited average of 3.32 percent. And Keisling only makes $82,321 a year, but that’s 18.10 percent of NTAC’s $454,770 annual budget.

Before anybody gets mad at me, I want to stress that I am not saying Mara Keisling doesn’t deserve her salary. And neither am I saying that Joe Solmonese does deserve his. My point is, it’s all relative. So before we gather up the townfolk and grab our torches and pitchforks to go after anybody, we need to sit back and take a good, hard look at the BIG picture.

Think about these organizations and the work they do. Think about the fact that some EDs have huge staffs working with and for them to accomplish their missions, where other EDs have little to no staff and do most of the work themselves. Think about what these organizations accomplish. Think where we would be without them. And then made an informed decision about where and how to donate your money.

Oh, and also remember, we want our organizations to recruit the best and brightest so that we can make progress in this battle for equality. And remember the best and brightest don’t necessarily come cheap. As the Blade point’s out, the average salary of CEOs at S&P 250 companies is $1 million, not including bonus packages and stock options that can take the total compensation to $10 million or more. Now, that’s a lot of dough!

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