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'Think Before You Donate' (Salaries of Charity CEOs Compared)

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Netlore Archive: Viral text purports to compare the salaries of top executives of U.S. and Canadian charitable organizations.

Description: Viral text / Forwarded email
Circulating since: Oct. 2005
Status: Mostly false / Outdated (see details below)


2012 version:
Email contributed by Kellie P., Feb. 15, 2013:

Salaries of Charity CEOs


2010 Example:
Email text as posted online, Nov. 3, 2010:

Donating - Interesting, ever wonder where that donation money goes?

Keep these facts in mind when "donating". As you open your pockets for yet another natural disaster, keep the following facts in mind; we have listed them from the highest (worse paid offender) to the lowest (least paid offender).

The worst offender was yet again for the 11th year in a row is, UNICEF - CEO, receives $1,200,000 per year, (plus use of a Royal Royce for his exclusive use where ever he goes, and an expense account that is rumored to be well over $150,000.) Only pennies from the actual donations goes to the UNICEF cause (less than $0.14 per dollar of income).

The second worst offender this year is Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross...for her salary for the year ending in 2009 was $651,957 plus expenses. Enjoys 6 weeks - fully paid holidays including all related expenses during the holiday trip for her and her husband and kids. including 100% fully paid health & dental plan for her and her family, for life. This means out of every dollar they bring in, about $0.39 goes to related charity causes.

The third worst offender was again for the 7th time was, Brian Gallagher, President of the United Way receives a $375,000 base salary (U.S. funds), plus so many numerous expense benefits it's hard to keep track as to what it is all worth, including a fully paid lifetime membership for 2 golf courses (1 in Canada, and 1 in the U.S.A.), 2 luxury vehicles, a yacht club membership, 3 major company gold credit cards for his personal expenses...and so on. This equates to about $0.51 per dollar of income goes to charity causes.

Fourth worst offender who was also again in the fourth spot, for every year since this information has been made available from the start 1998 is amazingly yet again, World Vision President (Canada) receives $300,000 base salary, (plus supplied - a home valued in the $700,000 - $800,000 dollar value range, completely furnished, completely paid all housing expenses, including taxes, water/sewer, telephone/fax, HD/high speed cable, weekly maid service and pool/yard maintenance, fully paid private schooling for his children, upscale automobile and an $55,000 personal expense account for clothing/food, with a $125,000 business expense account). Get this, because it is a "religious based" charity, it pays, little to no taxes, can receive government assistance and does not have to declare were the money goes. Only about $0.52 of earned income per dollar is available for charity causes.

Of the sixty some odd "charities" we looked at, the lowest paid (President/C.E.O/Commissioner) was heading up a charity group right here in Canada. We found, believe it or not, it was......

Ready for this...

I think you might be surprised...

It is, none other than...

The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing this $2 Billion dollar organization. Which means about $0.93 per dollar earned, is readily available and goes back out to local charity causes...truly amazing ...and well done "Sally Anne"

No further comment is necessary..."Think Twice" before you give to your Charity of choice as to which one really does the best for the most - or the least for the most, for that matter.


2005 Example:
Email text contributed by Galaine, Oct. 26, 2005:

As you open your pockets for yet another natural disaster, keep these facts in mind:

Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross... salary for year ending 06/30/03 was $651,957 plus expenses.

Brian Gallagher, President of the United Way receives a $375,000 base salary, plus numerous expense benefits.

The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing this $2 billion dollar organization.

No further comment necessary


Analysis: Regardless whether one feels charity CEOs are overpaid or underpaid, such judgments ought at least to be based on real facts and figures, not outdated and fictitious declarations such as the ones above.

Even a cursory comparison of these two messages, collected five years apart, reveals that much of the information contained in the 2010 version was repeated verbatim from the text originally distributed in 2005 — yet the 2005 version wasn't accurate in first place!

Rewind to 2005

As of 2005, these were the most up-to-date and trustworthy figures I could find for the executives originally listed:

  • Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, was paid $468,599 in salary and benefits in fiscal 2003. (Source: BBB Wise Giving Alliance)
  • Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way, was paid $432,709 in salary and benefits in fiscal 2003. (Source: Charity Navigator)
  • W. Todd Bassett, National Commander of the Salvation Army, was paid (along with his wife, who also works for the organization) an estimated $94,091 in salary and benefits in 2003 (including house and car). (Source: Fayetteville Observer)

Fast-forward to 2010

  • As of 2010, Marsha J. Evans, was no longer employed by the American Red Cross. According to United Press International, Gail McGovern took over as CEO of the American Red Cross in 2008 at an annual salary of $500,000 plus a signing bonus of $65,000.
  • Brian Gallagher is still President and CEO of United Way, and currently earns $1,037,140 a year, according to a December 2010 report from the American Institute of Philanthropy.
  • W. Todd Bassett is no longer National Commander of the Salvation Army. The current National Commander, Israel L. Gaither, is paid somewhere between $79,389 and $243,248 annually for his services. (Since the Salvation Army, as a religious organization, doesn't report its expenses to the IRS, the only available figures for executive salaries are estimates, which vary greatly from source to source.)
  • UNICEF's Executive Director, Anthony Lake, earns $201,351 a year, according to a 2010 communique from the organization — dramatically less than the $1,200,000 per year claimed in the message above.
  • Dave Toycen, the President of World Vision Canada, earns $184,000 per year plus a "moderate vehicle allowance," according to that organization's annual report to the Canada Revenue Agency. Again, that is significantly less than what is claimed above.

Tips for evaluating charities

Is one charity automatically more respectable than another just because its leader is paid a lower salary? Not necessarily, says Charity Navigator, a website that evaluates and compares the financial health of charitable organizations.

"While there are certainly some charities that overpay their leaders," the site's FAQ page explains, "Charity Navigator's data shows that those organizations are the minority. Among the charities we've evaluated, the average CEO salary is $150,000. ... These leaders could inevitably make much more running similarly sized for-profit firms. Furthermore, when making your decision [about where to donate] it is important to consider that it takes a certain level of professionalism to effectively run a charity and charities must offer a competitive salary if they want to attract and retain that level of leadership."

More: Charitable Giving Tips for the Holidays

Sources and further reading:

Red Cross Names New Chief, Gail McGovern
UPI, 9 April 2008

Salvation Army: Executive Compensation Data
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2010

Salvation Army
Forbes.com, 24 November 2009

America's Biggest Charities
Forbes, 17 November 2010

Top 25 Compensation Packages from AIP's Charity Rating Guide
American Institute of Philanthropy, December 2010

UNICEF Canada Addresses Misleading Emails
UNICEF Canada, 2010

World Vision Canada: Our Approach to Executive Compensation
World Vision Canada, 2010

Charity Navigator - Fundraising Organizations
Evaluates financial health of charitable organizations

Top Rated Charities
American Institute of Philanthropy

America's Most (and Least) Efficient Charities
Forbes.com, 24 November 2004

Charities' Leaders Take Home Big Checks
Fayetteville Observer, 4 April 2004

Major Charity Heads Reap Rising Pay
CBS Market Watch, 5 December 2003

Charity CEO Compensation Study
Charity Navigator, 8 August 2005

Last updated: 02/16/13

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