The GiveWell Blog

Low pay driving out the best?? How did this happen?!?!

Whoa, no way – young nonprofit sector workers don’t want to stay in the sector because of low pay? Young people don’t aspire to become nonprofit leaders? Well where are we going to get great leaders? We need great leaders at nonprofits if we want them to get great things done, right?

Man, that’s rough. Anyway, my attention span isn’t so hot, so I forget what I was just talking about, but you know what pisses me off? Charities that blow their money on fat salaries for their greedy executives!! Oh, man. Don’t get me started. At least I have a friend in Charity Navigator, which puts the CEO compensation right on that profile page so I can spot crooks like that Curtis R. Welling. Guy makes 275 THOUSAND DOLLARS (as much as a mid-level investment banker!) for running Americares, which barely cracks the top 20 largest nonprofits in the country. I mean, the AVERAGE nonprofit CEO makes ~$150k/yr – who needs that kind of money? That’s, like, entry-level MBA money!

Listen to me. I want my donation going to needy children, not to some jerk in a suit. I want great leaders in the nonprofit sector. I am confused.

Oh, actually, I think I’ve sorted it out. The problem seems to be that pesky Straw Ratio again, and the mentality that goes along with it: that we should evaluate charities by nitpicking their balance sheets and questioning their operating costs, rather than by looking at what they do and whether it works.


  • dontvote on March 17, 2007 at 10:16 am said:

    The problem with a sarcastic post is that it’s too tempting to let that be the end of it. You still need to give the lesson here (maybe because it was six in the morning when you posted it on saturday).

    It’s pretty clear to me that just as charities need to be evaluated on what they do an whether it works, people need to be paid on that basis as well. I would consider the ‘mission’ aspect of compensation to a certain point, dunno what %paycut is equivalent to doing good, but it doesn’t make sense that a CEO running a company and a CEO running a charity of comparable complexity should have such a large disparity. The key is the efficacy and complexity of the post (I think running UNICEF has different skills required than running a direct local fund drive).

    Pay more for better talent but demand results — an echo of other posts, I know.

  • Holden on March 17, 2007 at 10:29 am said:

    Apologies if this post was unclear. Your take is exactly what I meant.

    I’m not quite done hammering at the Straw Ratio … apologies if it starts to get repetitive, but I really have a grudge against the “overhead vs. program expenses” thing, which I think is not just a bad metric, but a symptom of a problematic and pervasive mentality.

  • Walter on March 19, 2007 at 8:05 am said:

    Charity Navigator doesn’t use the salaries of charity CEOs in calculating their ratings; they just post them because they are public record and donors have the right to know.

    Charity Navigator apparently believes in transparency. That might now matter much here, since everyone’s anonymous and hides from being accountable. But that’s what they believe.

  • Holden on March 19, 2007 at 2:30 pm said:

    Transparency doesn’t mean dumping information, it means communicating. Donors have a right to know a lot of things; the question is, what information should be front and center? What information is most relevant?

    Charity Navigator thinks the most relevant information, broadly, is how much of your dollar goes “straight to the programs.” Perhaps you think the most relevant information is some combination of this and the reviewer’s biography, love life, etc. We think the most important information is what the programs are and what evidence exists for their effectiveness.

  • Walter on March 20, 2007 at 8:06 am said:

    Fair enough. But it saddens me that you’re hiding from being accountable. You may be onto something, or you may not, but I can’t afford to trust you without knowing your identity. How do I know that you don’t work for the charities you recommend? How do I know, for that matter, that when you criticize Charity Navigator that you’re not a representative of one the charities they rate poorly, or the founder of one of their competitors? Anonymity may embolden you to speak your true feelings, or it may just let you hide from accountability. No way to know.

    Anonymous postings are for cowards and teenagers on My Space. Until you’re willing to stand publicly behind your views, I’ll stay with folks like Charity Navigator.

  • Holden on March 20, 2007 at 9:04 am said:

    The anonymity will end in May, so if you have to wait till then to confirm that we are coming at this as donors and not charities’ affiliates, OK.

    But if you read our reviews, you’ll see that there’s no need to trust us because we are giving reasons, not just conclusions. Even if I were a secret spy for one of these charities, everything I say is relatively easy to confirm or refute (either factually or logically). The same applies to the argument over Charity Navigator: I didn’t just say its methodology is misleading, I said why I think that is.

    Even if I did have a secret agenda, a valid criticism is a valid criticism. Forget about trust and judge our arguments on their merits.

  • Anonymous on March 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm said:

    free car quote…

    Excellent post. Keep it up!…

Comments are closed.