Thinking Out Loud

February 27, 2011

Compensation for Charity CEOs: How Much is Too Much?

In a very recent article that unfortunately wasn’t picked up for inclusion in the online newspaper, The Toronto Star’s ethics columnist Ken Gallinger raised the issue of the top compensation paid to CEOs of humanitarian charities and relief an development agencies.

Perhaps it’s just as well that the article isn’t available, because the Canadian examples he cited probably pale in comparison to the figures paid to those holding similar posts in the United States.

And he was quick to remind us that many heads of non-profits do, in fact, give back. The salaries quoted would, in that case, only tell us half the story.

In my world, the largest financial donors in some small churches are the ministers themselves, many of whom work 60 hour weeks.

But, to answer the question, the figure he kept tossing around was $200,000.

On the one hand, these are donor dollars, and it must be hard to take home this kind of paycheck when your ads are full of starving children; at $30 a month, that one check would sponsor 550 kids. Ethically, that’s got to cause angst.

But let’s be fair, Nobody is well served by bad, lazy or visionless leadership. These charities are huge. In 2009, World Vision spent over $37 Million (CDN) on employee compensation alone. Heading up such an oranization, whether it manufactures widgets or builds wells in Africa, requires wit, wisdom and experience. And you tend to get what you pay for.

He also pointed out that in Canada’s for-profit sector, the top 100 execs’ average just under $7 Million (CDN) each, noting that the average minimum wage earner gets 0.3 per cent of their boss’s income.

So again, I ask, “How much is too much?”


  1. Too much is “too much,” just as too little is not enough. Here’s a novel thought: How about ‘just enough’ to….

    Yeah, “to…” have or do what? Herein lies the issue(s) with all so-called moralistic charity overseers.

    Comment by Paul — February 27, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  2. I know one Church leader who criticises Christian singers, groups etc for not making all their products free, saying it should be their free Christian service. I tried to explain that it was their vocation, just as selling insurance was his, but of course he would not listen.

    It is a sad reflection that money has to be spent to gain money. While we prefer to give to Christian organisations where all or most of the money goes directly to the need, we know that overhead is largely unavoidable, with few exceptions. (ALL money given to Gideons goes to purchasing Scriptures and overhead is provided by the members. No doubt there are others)

    How much is too much? I have no idea, but I think ALL Christian organisations who ask for donations should disclose a graph showing HOW the funds are spent. (some do) Then the giver can make informed decisions.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — February 28, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

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