Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workin' at the Y'

I have a bone to pick about a story published tonight (Thursday) in the online edition of the Houston Chronicle, taking a pot shot at the top executive of the YMCA of Greater Houston for being the highest paid CEO of any nonprofit human service organization in the country.

Even the headline is slanted, in my opinion: "YMCA Leader's Pay Tops Peers in U.S. ...Study: $700,000 is vastly more than income of other nonprofit execs"

Boy, doesn’t that just make your blood boil?
This guy’s earning $700k a year for running a Y (sarcasm).
That’s outrageous (more sarcasm).
Everybody knows the YMCA is a charity…it’s a non-profit…how can they pay a guy $700k a year to run it (sarcasm dripping onto the floor in pools)??

According to, a compensation study by Charity Navigator examined the CEO salaries of 3,000 mid- to large-sized charities. They determined the median salary of top leaders was $147,273 in 2008, which, by the way, in the depths of a recession, reflects a 4.7% increase over the previous year.

What does that tell you, when the economy has sputtered along at less than 3% growth, the average non-profit CEO’s income went up nearly 5%? 
Are you still as miffed?

And that’s the thing about median numbers: by definition, the number is in the middle of the pack. Certainly, there’s going to be SOMEONE earning top-dollar, just as there’s going to be some poor sap at the bottom of the heap.

There’s a very interesting passage on the first page of Charity Navigator’s report the Chronicle neglected to note in its story: “…these CEO’s are running multi-million dollar operations that endeavor to change the world. (underline emphasis is mine)

“Leading one of these charities requires an individual that possesses and understanding of the issues that are unique to the charity’s mission, as well as a high level of fundraising and management expertise.

“…it is important…to understand that since the average charity CEO [pay] runs roughly $150,000 a six-figure salary is not necessarily a sign of excessive pay for…a large sized charity.”

Clark Baker, who has led the Houston YMCA for eight years, earned $661,634 in 2008. The YMCA’s expenses that year were over $109-million.

Did that just hair-lip the governor?
The CEO of the Houston YMCA banked over $661-k?

So now the bleeding hearts are making hay about whether Baker is being paid too much to run a charity. One YMCA member quoted in the paper said Baker’s paycheck is an “obscene amount of money," …five times the median salary of men doing similar jobs at nonprofits.”

Well someplace, somewhere, some poor sap is making five-times less than the median salary. Where’s your bleeding heart concern for that sucker?

Our man Baker makes more than the CEOs of the YMCA of Greater New York and the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles. He also earns more than the CEO of the American Red Cross, the largest human services charity, with $3.4 billion in total expenses.

I am sick and tired of a disturbingly growing mentality that allows you to look at a report on median income and take pot shots at the guy on the right-end of the scale because he’s at the extreme end of the pay chart, and then say he’s making too much money.

How much is too much money?
Is $661K too much money to pay a guy who has run an organization  with 36 facilities, more than 300 programs and serves more than 700,000 people each year?

According to the Chronicle’s biased headline, Baker’s making about a dollar-per-person served. Is that too much??

You may recall earlier this year a group of Republican senators in Congress questioned the nearly $1 million salary of the top leader of the Boys & Girls Club of America, and refused to approve $425 million in federal funding for the organization.

Not the Houston YMCA
Compensation Committee
"You make too much money.
"You need to be punished."
Is that the American way?

I say don’t blame Clark Baker
Blame the Board of the Houston YMCA. 
Their executive compensation committee is responsible for reviewing Baker’s performance and setting his pay each year.

Here’s another galling point—buried deep, deep, deeply in the story is the only counter-weight to the premise Baker’s making too much dough working for the Y: “Despite Baker's huge salary, the YMCA is doing well financially, according to the charity watchdog, which has given the local organization four stars — the highest financial performance rating - over the past eight years. Its fundraising expenses are low, and it has a good level of working capital…”


Sounds to me like Clark Baker is worth his salt, and earning every penny he makes, working at the Y.

1 comment:

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