Let's be clear. Most CEOs of nonprofits are not making out like bandits with huge salaries. Most get modest paychecks and are underpaid for the time, talent and devotion they give to their work.
Still, those who do draw excessive, often exorbitant pay are a black eye on the nonprofit industry. They're making donors skeptical of nonprofits in general and that's reducing donations at a critical time as more people seek help in a depressed economy. The personal money these CEOs are raking in could be better used for the services and programs their nonprofits provide for those in need.
Fixing this situation must become a priority for those who regulate nonprofits, and for the boards of directors and groups who set the amounts for these pay packages. All have played a role in allowing these situations to occur and persist.
How egregious is it? The CEO of Cornelius-based American Credit Counselors Corp. got a whopping $5.1 million payout when the company folded in 2005 - mostly in pension money. It was nearly all the money the nonprofit had in its bank account when it went under. The board that approved the money was a group CEO John Waskin selected himself.
Then there's Bible Time, a Spartanburg-based nonprofit that spreads the gospel through television and radio programs. The group's annual budget is $2.4 million. But the combined pay to family members who run it is about $1 million - including $370,000 to leader Freda Crews and an additional $416,000 to her husband, the organization's founder. That's nearly 40 percent of what the group spent last year.
Crews said in an e-mail to the Observer that her compensation is set by an independent committee of the group's board. And it is reviewed by outside experts to ensure it complies with IRS regulations.
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