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Excessive Charity CEO Pay is Not the Norm

America's Largest Charity Evaluator Releases Study on Nonprofit CEO Salaries


GLEN ROCK, N.J., October 11, 2016 – According to a study by Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most utilized charity evaluator, the median charity’s chief executive officer’s compensation among the charities that it rates is $123,462.  This represents a raise of just 3% over the previous year.

The study examined CEO compensation at 4,587 charities in America to help donors, policymakers, charity boards and others understand how top pay varies by the charity’s total expenses, mission and location.  Findings from the report include:

  • The typical CEO’s compensation is very reasonable: The median compensation for charities included in the study was just $123,362.
  • The bigger the charity’s budget, the bigger the CEO’s compensation: Not surprisingly, the higher the charity’s total expenses, the more likely it is that the CEO will earn higher compensation. 
  • CEO compensation differs based on the charity’s mission: The data shows that top pay at charities varies somewhat based on the charity’s line of work. For example, holding total expenses constant, Research charities pay their CEOs roughly 50% more than Human Services charities.
  • Just like in the for-profit sector, location impacts salaries: CEO salaries at nonprofits reflect the regional variation in the cost of living.  For example, CEOs at charities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, which include cities like Boston, Washington D.C. and New York, tend to earn higher salaries, than those in other parts of the country. 

“While reports of excessive nonprofit salaries frequently make the front page, our data tells a very different story,” said Charity Navigator, president & CEO, Michael Thatcher. “Analysis into the compensation practices at over 4,500 charities reveals that the vast majority of CEOs receive very reasonable salaries.”

CEO pay includes salary, cash bonuses and expense accounts, but not contributions to benefit plans or deferred compensation that is allocated to be paid in later years.  The data for this report was gathered from the charities’ Forms 990 (annual informational tax filing) for the fiscal year ending 2014.

About Charity Navigator
Charity Navigator is the largest expert charity evaluator in America and its website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of over 8,000 charities. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data. As a result, Charity Navigator, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations and foundations that believe it provides a much-needed service to America's charitable givers. Charity Navigator, can be reached directly by telephone at (201) 818-1288, or by mail at 139 Harristown Road, Suite 101, Glen Rock, N.J., 07452.

To access the complete study, including tips to help donors evaluate CEO pay, visit: http://www.charitynavigator.org/ceostudy

Media Contact:

Sandra Miniutti
201.818.1288 x105

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