It’s not unusual for me and my dad. We have different opinions on everything from taste in food to the question of how much money is appropriate to spend on clothes. But to disagree on values, or real social concerns, that is a whole other story. When it comes to the issues that can cause discomfort if raised at a dinner party, my dad and I most often see eye to eye. So when my dad told me he thinks non-profit executives are getting paid too much, I did what any warm-blooded girl would do- I took personal offense.
The conversation wasn’t my choice, I should mention right off the bat. After picking me up from the train station in Connecticut, my dad told me he read a survey of Jewish non-profit executive salaries. He didn’t need to say much for me to quickly guess what my dad meant: Non-profits shouldn’t pay high salaries. At that moment I closed my ears and jumped on the offensive, knowing that it was my duty, as both a non-profit professional and a good daughter, to set the man straight. Why should someone, after all, have to ever sacrifice a nice income for doing good work?
As you may have already guessed, my dad’s real argument (which I only learned once I took out those defensive earplugs of mine) was a great deal more nuanced than simply that non-profit employees shouldn’t earn good salaries. The question my father raised is this: How much money is too much for a non-profit executive to earn?
To answer this would require answering a whole slew of questions first. Like, how do we gauge what a non-profit should pay any of its professionals? Where is the funding for the executive’s salary coming from? And what kind of non-profit are we dealing with in the first place?
I wish I had answers to these questions, but as you may realize by now, I have few answers to anything. All I know about this is issue is that there is no one-size-fits-all statement. Knowing just the salary of a given non-profit executive is not enough to say whether or not that salary is too high (or too little).