News and analysis
September 22, 2013

Heads of Big Nonprofits Won 3% Raises Last Year

Vincent Hunter for First Book

Kyle Zimmer, who heads First Book, makes $180,000 but has refused raises even though her board says she’s underpaid.

Chief executives at the nation’s biggest charities and foundations received a median salary increase of 3.1 percent in 2012, according to The Chronicle’s annual compensation survey.

That’s a smaller increase than the 3.8 percent they earned according to last year’s study and half as big as the pay raises received by corporate executives.

Because raises are so spartan, many nonprofit boards are seeking other ways to keep chief executives happy. Growing in popularity are performance-based bonuses and incentives, which one-third of the 313 organizations studied provided to their leaders. (Subscribers have access to all of the salaries in our searchable database.)

The Chronicle’s survey was based on 2012 data provided by 118 organizations and 2011 data supplied by 195 organizations.

While groups are required to report salary data publicly, most won’t do so until they file their informational tax returns with the IRS, and the vast majority of nonprofits won’t file their 2012 forms until 2014.

Among the findings from The Chronicle survey:

  • The median compensation in 2012 for CEOs at all organizations was $417,989. It was higher—$497,513—at operating and private foundations.
  • Seven nonprofits paid their chief executives more than $1-million last year, as did 27 groups that provided 2011 figures. That’s a larger number than the 23 executives who made $1-million or more in last year’s study.
  • Twenty-two groups in 2012 reported that someone other than the CEO—typically the chief investment officer—made more money than the chief executive.

Only two women cracked the top 20 of the highest-paid executives in 2012: Donna Shalala, who received $869,520 as president of the University of Miami, and Lorie Slutsky, who received $762,824 as chief executive of the New York Community Trust.

While the list does not necessarily show the highest-paid people in the nonprofit world, it does show what the wealthiest groups pay their executives. At the top of the list was John Ruskay, head of United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, who received $3.1-million. The bulk of that pay is from $2.6-million in a supplemental retirement plan. He has received half that sum and will get the rest when he retires next year. He has helped the organization raise $2.9-billion since 1999.

He was followed by Robert Mazzuca of Boy Scouts of America ($1.8-million) and Brian Gallagher of United Way Worldwide ($1.2-million).

Not all the people on the list make such big sums. Among them: Kyle Zimmer, head of First Book, a Washington group that last year raised $101-million from private sources. She makes $180,000 and says that when her board members tell her they have done studies showing she is underpaid compared with other groups of that size in metropolitan areas, she tells them she doesn’t want an increase.

Send an e-mail to Doug Donovan.