our everyday life

The Salary of a Nonprofit Chief Executive Officer

by Samantha Ley

Chief executive officers, or CEOs, can also have titles such as president or director. They are responsible for leading their organizations to meet their stated mission and goals, usually through the management of finances, personnel and other key elements related to performance. Though specifics vary by organization, CEOs of nonprofit and governmental organizations can usually expect to receive fewer benefits than those who work for private corporations.

Salary Statistics

A survey of nonprofit CEOs in Tennessee by Watkins Uiberall, a CPA firm, in 2012 provides a snapshot of compensation in this field. Around 80 earned between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. Close to 60 executives earned between $76,000 and $100,000 per year, while slightly fewer than 60 earned between $101,000 and $150,000 yearly. In a 2012 Charity Navigator survey, nonprofit CEOs across the United States made a median salary of $132,784 in 2010, showing a median increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year.

Salary by Region

According to the Charity Navigator survey, nonprofit CEO salaries varied by region. CEOs in the Northeast made the most, taking in a median of $156,914 per year. Those in the Mid-Atlantic and Pacific West made $150,000 and $128,466 per year, respectively. CEOs of southern nonprofits made the least of all regions, taking in a median of $118,636 per year.

Salary by Organization Type

Charity Navigator reported that CEOs of education organizations earned more than those who headed other organization types. The median salary for education CEOs was $177,734, and the highest salary reported in this category was $1,916,143. Those who led organizations related to arts, culture and humanities earned a median salary of $162,263, while those who worked at health nonprofits took in a median of $150,986.

Salary by Organization Budget

In the Watkins Uiberall survey, CEO salaries correlated to the size of the organization’s budget: the majority of CEOs who earned between $50,000 and $75,000 worked for organizations that had budgets of between $250,000 and $999,000 per year, while most of those who earned between $101,000 and $150,000 worked for groups with an operating budget of between $1 million and $4.9 million per year. Of the CEOs whose organizations had budgets under $100,000 – the lowest surveyed budget category - none earned more than $75,000 per year.

Salary by Organization Expenses

The Charity Navigator survey found similar results, showing that 2010 CEO salaries were highest in organizations with expenses greater than $13.5 million, where they earned a median of $245,671 per year. Organizations with expenses between $3.5 million and $13.5 million paid CEOs a median of $145,135, while those with costs under $3.5 million paid a median of $93,974.

About the Author

Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images