Some charity execs not getting rich, and others make nothing

Readers reminded me there are charities that don’t pay their top operators big salaries, or in some cases, any salaries at all.

Carolyn Goodman, founder of Meadows School, wasn’t paid for her efforts. Janet Blumen, founder of Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, is the CEO for the job training nonprofit and she’s not paid a salary either. The highest paid employee there makes about $40,000. Both women are wealthy, but that doesn’t mean their time isn’t valuable.

The Assistance League of Las Vegas is an all-volunteer operation providing help for needy children. Its largest program is Operation School Bell which gives clothing to needy children from kindergarten through the eighth grade. It took in $1.6 million in revenues in 2008, the most recent year the Internal Revenue Service’s 990 reports for tax-exempt operations are available.

Its CEO salary? Zippo. In fact, nobody is paid. When they say all-volunteer, they mean all-volunteer. (Editor Thomas Mitchell’s wife, Jo, is a volunteer.)

Nevada PTA President Alison Turner works for free, so do the 10,000 active PTA volunteers across Nevada, who try to increase parental involvement with their children both in school and at home.

When I asked Turner how much is too much for a charity to pay its CEO, Turner reminded me that the new superintendant of schools in Clark County, whoever that may be, will oversee a budget of $2 billion and will be paid a salary of at least $270,000.

The Las Vegas Valley Humane Society CEO, Karen Layne, is yet another who works for free and heads an all-volunteer operation.

There are others who devote their time to good causes and don’t get a dime. My apologies for not naming more of the ones who do so much for so little.

After days of looking at charity tax forms, any compensation under $200,000 is starting to look reasonable. Yet many, many Las Vegas charities are conservative in what they pay their operators and do good work.

Shade Tree, which helps women and children find shelter, and which was just featured on CBS News, pays executive director Marlene Richter less than $26,000. The other executive director, Brenda Dizon, is paid not quite $120,000. In 2008, Shade Tree provided shelter to 3,500 women and children, plus 182 pets.

The Salvation Army, as a religious organization, doesn’t have to file a 990, but Maj. Bob Lloyd, who heads the 22 programs with a $17 million budget in Clark and Nye counties, said he and his wife are paid a total of $78,000 a year, and are provided a home and a car. Compensation is set by the national organization based on years experience and number of children, and is the same everywhere. (A husband-wife duo in this case is not nepotism; it’s the Salvation Army’s preferred team.)

“I understand some organizations feel if they tap top talent and pay a lot to attract them, they’ll get a benefit in fundraising,” he said. “We rely on folks who have a spiritual bent.”

One final warning. Just because someone puts up a website and declares it a nonprofit doesn’t always mean they run a charity recognized by the IRS.

Recently for my Dad, I checked out a charity that appeals to veterans using radio advertising. Using GuideStar at, I couldn’t find a Form 990. Now that’s a red flag. Because GuideStar has 990s for more than 1.8 million nonprofits, I warned him against this one. He could do better.

The IRS is currently revoking the nonprofit status of charities that haven’t filed their 990s for three years. That’s something to check if you want your charity dollars to mean something, and you want that deduction to be accepted by the IRS.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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