Disable all preview features

2012 CEO Compensation Study

November 6, 2012


View & Share the Infographic


At Charity Navigator we receive numerous inquiries from donors, reporters and nonprofit board members asking “how much compensation is too much for a charity’s CEO?” And they aren’t the only ones asking this question. CEO compensation has become such a hot-button topic that several states ---including New York, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois --- have passed or are considering regulations that place limits on compensation for charity CEOs. And the IRS, the entity responsible for regulating charities at the federal level, continues to prioritize CEO compensation as one of its main areas of focus in uncovering fraudulent nonprofit practices. In recent years, the IRS has even redesigned the Form 990 (the informational tax returns charities submit to the IRS annually), in part, to force greater transparency around nonprofit compensation.

IRS rules simply state that nonprofit CEOs should receive ‘reasonable compensation.’ This is obviously not an especially helpful yardstick for the average donor. Yet, the procedure behind this terminology is useful. In determining ‘reasonable compensation,’ the IRS encourages a charity’s board of directors to collect data on the compensation practices of similar nonprofits.

In the process of evaluating thousands of charities, Charity Navigator has collected a wealth of data on CEO salaries. Our analysts have examined tens of thousands of nonprofit financial documents, giving us insight into the real-world financial practices of America’s largest charities. We know how CEO salaries vary by the charity’s location, size and type of work. Since 2005 we have published our findings in an annual CEO Compensation Study in an effort to help donors, nonprofit leaders and regulators make educated decisions about the appropriateness of a nonprofit executive’s pay.*


Charity Navigator's 2012 Study
Download a PDF copy


See our corresponding Press Release:  Can You Get Rich Running A Charity?

A pdf of our prior study can be obtained here: Charity Navigator's 2010 CEO Compensation Study (223KB)
* Due to the launch of an expanded rating system in September 2011 (which we call CN 2.0), that was the one year we did not publish a CEO Compensation Study.

Did You Know We’re a Charity Too?

Charity Navigator has a wonderful community of nearly 7 million givers. Together we’ve been able to:

  • Continually provide new and updated charity ratings
  • Increase charity transparency and awareness
  • Support the long-term missions of charities through our encouragement of informed giving

Whether you’re a first-time giver or a long-time user, we love having you in our community. Your gift of any size is appreciated!

Join Our Mailing List

Join over 400,000 other informed givers and get updates on charity ratings, new features, hot topics, and tips for donating.

Help & Support