April 20, 2014

At the Top Tier, Charity Fundraisers Earn $500,000 or More

More than two dozen fundraisers at the nation’s nonprofits earn more than $500,000, and at least two make $1-million or more, according to a Chronicle analysis of the latest compensation data available. (Subscribers can see our database of fundraiser compensation.)

In 2011, Anne McSweeney, campaign director at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, received $1.2-million, and Sue Feagin, who then held the top fundraising job at Columbia University, earned more than $1-million. Both were rewarded with bonuses in part because of the successful fundraising drives they oversaw, said officials of their institutions.

The Chronicle analyzed pay for fundraisers at 280 nonprofits that raise at least $35-million from private sources.

Colleges and hospitals tended to pay the most, in part because they were more likely to run ambitious drives for private support.

After Ms. McSweeney and Ms. Feagin, the highest paid were:

  • Daniel Forman, vice president for development at Yeshiva University, who earned $922,542.
  • Richard Naum, vice president for development at Memorial Sloan Kettering, earned $872,964.
  • Mark Kostegan, senior vice president for development at Mount Sinai’s school of medicine, earned $870,866.

The most successful fundraising charities do not necessarily pay the most. The American Red Cross, for instance, which ranked No. 20 on The Chronicle’s list of the nonprofits that raised the most last year, paid its chief development officer, Neil Litvack, $353,122.

Competition for outstanding fundraisers is one reason for the big pay packages. At a time when nonprofits are under financial pressure due to tight government budgets and a tough economy, many say the demands on top fundraisers are more intense then ever, and very few people have the right skills to meet expectations.

“For the top 1 percent of these people, it’s going to cost you a lot of money,” says Marshall Field V, a World Wildlife Foundation trustee and member of the Chicago family that founded the department store of the same name.

The competition for talent is so strong that Steven Rum, vice president for development at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says an “arms race” has broken out among nonprofits to lure talented fundraisers with hefty salaries.

“I lost five people to an institution a mile away, predicated on one thing: money,” he says.

Some nonprofit experts were upset to learn about the size of the salaries at the top level.

“You don’t need to take poverty wages,” said Ken Berger, head of Charity Navigator, “But if you’re working for a charity, the idea of fundraising becoming millionaires is problematic. I don’t care how much money you raise.”

Fundraisers With the Highest Total Compensation

The highest-paid fundraisers work for hospitals and universities; fundraisers working for arts and environmental organizations generally made substantially less.

Name/TitleOrganizationTotal compensationCompensation per million dollars in private supportDonations from private sources
Anne McSweeney, Campaign Director, Development Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center $1,212,309 $3,932 $308,289,000
Susan Feagin, Executive Vice President, University Development & Alumni Relations* Columbia University $1,066,951 $982 $1,086,215,418
Daniel Forman, Vice President, Development Yeshiva University $922,542 $9,019 $102,292,345
Richard Naum, Vice President, Development Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center $872,964 $2,832 $308,289,000
Mark Kostegan, Senior Vice President, Development Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai $870,866 $7,871 $110,636,117

Note: Groups that do not list a chief fundraiser on the Form 990 were excluded. Salary data are from calendar year 2011.

* No longer with the organization

Send an e-mail to Alex Daniels, Holly Hall, and Anu Narayanswamy.