Giving to charities

I need some enlightenment.
I read a great article on Catholic Exchange recommending that one thing we can do for the Syrian crisis is donate to a charity that helps them. Especially children are being affected, and need help.
In researching some of the charities mentioned on Charity Navigator, I see that the CEOs of charities mentioned, for example Catholic Relief Services, make over 395,000 in salary.
The explanations given for this seem to be that to attract great people able to head organizations dealing with millions, you need to offer a similar salary and benefits package to other organizations.
Okay. I see that some CEOs make over 1 million in salary, so the 400K that CEOs of charities make is not out of line.
But, why does anyone need $400K per year to live on? What could you possibly spend that much on?
And bottom line, should I contribute some of my hard earned money to an organization whose CEO could toss out an equal amount as a tip and not miss it?
But the orphans and refugees definitely need help.
Any comments? What am I missing?




I suggest you watch Dan Pallotta’s TED talk on exactly this subject of compensation and charities.

Bottom line, yes the workers deserve to be paid a wage in proportion to the work they do and yes non-profits need to be competitive with for profits for talent.

The rubric I generally pay most attention to is the percentage of how much of a donated dollar goes towards program costs, versus to administration and fundraising.

Which is really a meaningless statistic overall.

Putting everything towards programs and little towards administration is the exact thing that chokes charity’s ability to grow and leverage that growth for broader reach and more assistance to those who need it.

You can avoid all those issues by contributing directly to the person in need.

You are right on the money. There are many things to consider when deciding what charity to support. Here are some tips:

  1. Compare apples to apples: Don’t compare a homeless shelter to a counseling charity, or comparing a construction ministry to a soup kitchen.

  2. Consider how important religion is to you: How important is it for you that you are contributing to a Catholic charity? A Christian charity?

  3. Look at how much of donations goes to fundraising, administration, and on the mission. If your considering between St. Michael’s homeless shelter and St. Gabriel’s homeless shelter, and if St. Michael’s gives 80% to the need, and St. Gabriel’s gives 70%, I’d give to Michael.

  4. Salary vs expenses. Some executives get what seems like a big salary, but they pay all of their business travel expenses out of their pocket. Others, get a small salary, but get all their bills paid by the charity.

Payroll and CEO compensation are important parts, but you need to consider what the job they are doing. A hospital charity would spend a lot on payroll, and probably a lot on their top executives, because of the complex tasks and skill required. A soup kitchen, I would assume, would spend much less on payroll, because it is a much simpler task.

I looked up the CRS that you mentioned:
I know $400k sounds like a lot of money, but when you have a charity that brings in $684 million (in 2014), its a small piece of the pie (~0.07% of the top of my head).

True, but sometimes they are out of our reach, such as the Syrians,.

Thanks for all the comments, very helpful.


True, but just a walk in any urban area and you’ll find at least one person who needs a blanket, a hot cup of coffee, and/or a hug. We should never overlook the obvious.

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