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Non-Profits Get Picked On (And Deserve Some of It)

When budgets are tight, it only makes sense that non-profits would become targets since they tend to get the most free rides. We’ve seen it with this 990 push (kind of like 404(b) for < $75 million and new health care rules that require companies to send in 1099s for every vendor purchase over $600, it feels a little like bureaucratic busywork to me) and now non-profit executive compensation is in New Jersey tie’s crosshairs.

A provision in his state’s recently passed budget limits executive salaries at nonprofits that do business with the state.

Firedoglake foamed at the mouth over recent comments by Tom Coburn after he shot down $425 million in fresh money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. FDL appeared absolutely incapable of comprehending caps on non-profit salaries when for-profit CEOs earn “500 times” more than their non-profit counterparts.

On Capitol Hill, four senators this spring refused to approve a $425 million package of federal grants for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America after staff members looked at the organization’s tax forms as part of a routine vetting process and were surprised to learn that the organization paid its chief executive almost $1 million in 2008 — $510,774 in salary and bonus and $477,817 in retirement and other benefits.

“A nearly $1 million salary and benefit package for a nonprofit executive is not only questionable on its face but also raises questions about how the organization manages its finances in other areas,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

We covered S.2924 back in March when Chuck Grassley wrote a nasty note asking for – gasp – accounting details. While I totally support FDL’s outrage towards for-profit CEOs, I have to remind them that we already have the accounting details of for-profit corporations; so if Jamie Dimon gets $42 bazillion a year, we can just dig into his financial statements to figure out why. Chances are assets > liabilities so he can do that (unless he’s asking for a bailout but I don’t recall hearing him ask in 2008). With the Boys and Girls Club posting a $13 million loss in 2008, President Roxanne Spillett still earned $593,926. You don’t think that might warrant a little investigation?

FDL goes on to wonder out loud if all non-profits are created equal:

If Senator Coburn is going to stagger down that path, arms flapping wildly at the injustice of these non-profit salaries, then by his reckoning, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre should forego his $1,139,568 annual salary (as of 2008), and Robert Mazzuca of the Boy Scouts of America needs to pay back that $1,577,600 he received in 2009. (Note: Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, only pulls down $350K a year. Methinks someone’s not living up to his objectivist potential.)

I’m all for reform but only when applied equally across the board. The alternative is letting the market decide by being an informed donor (using tools like Charity Navigator to see how much particular non-profit execs are making and how they are using their money). If you don’t believe in a non-profit’s compensation practices, don’t give them a thing.

The government can continue to do so without caring or it can get smart about the money that it does not have and start taking a closer look at how non-profits operate. If you ask me, the entire thing is a gaping hole of waste and confusion and you could possibly confirm that with anyone familiar with non-profit accounting.

Senators Want Accounting Details From Boys & Girls Club of America

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A group of Republican senators (including Chuck Grassley) want Boys & Girls Clubs of America executives to answer for such egregious non-profit sins as high executive salaries, fat retirement plans, and lobbying expenses. You see, Chuck Grassley is a sharp guy (wild statements about executive suicide notwithstanding) and as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he’s the one keeping an eye on the sort of action non-profits get from Congress. So when an $85 million a year initiative to provide blanket funding to the non-profit group slipped by the committee, the red flags went up.

Iowa’s Grassley is joined by Tom Coburn, R-OK; Jon Kyl , R.-AZ.; and John Cornyn, R-TX in questioning a multitude of sins including CEO Roxanne Spillett’s $1 million a year compensation package, half a million dollars a year in lobbying and $4.3 million in “travel expenses.” Not really a problem if the funds are unrestricted and coming from donors who know their donations may go to, say, trips and renting a Senator here and there. Nah. After reviewing the org’s 2008 tax return, the senators concluded that 40% of Boys and Girls Club funding comes from the federal government.

The new Senate bill, S.2924, changes the original intent of a 1998 bill that granted $20 million a year to provide “seed money” for 1,000 new Boys & Girls Clubs from 1997 – 2001. Grassley argues that this new legislation essentially turns money that should go to keeping low income at-risk youth off the streets, into a vague piggy bank for the organization. Naturally, Chuck & Co. have a problem with that.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America posted a $13 million loss in 2008. In 2009, it cut 10% of its full-time workers, instituted 26 furlough days a year, and closed chapters in DC, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and others.

Though the organization hasn’t had time to personally respond to Grassley’s nice letter last Thursday, they told the Journal they’d be complying with the investigation and not at all afraid of what the committee may find, insisting they are no more poorly-managed than any other non-profit nor do they spend more on lobbying than anyone else either.

Sounds like an excellent defense; I don’t see how it could go wrong.

Senators Demand Accounting from Boys & Girls Clubs [WebCPA]
Sens Try To Block Funding To Boys & Girls Clubs of America [WSJ]