When I first moved to DC and was looking for a place to volunteer, I quickly came across Food & Friends, a nonprofit that, "Provides meals, groceries and nutrition counseling to people living with life-challenging illnesses such as AIDS and cancer."
I was impressed by the Food & Friends volunteer corps pounding the pavement in Dupont Circle, selling the mission, advertising the group's services, and recruiting volunteers. Within weeks of my first contact with Food & Friends, however, news broke in the Washington area that the group's executive director, Craig Shniderman, was making over $350,000 a year in salary and benefits.
I mean, I'm not qualified to say what could be considered "competitive" compensation for a person in his position, but I do know that compensation tends to follow budget size in the nonprofit sector. According to yesterday's piece in the Washington Examiner, that level of compensation accounted for nearly 4% of the organization's overall budget in 2007.
If these folks continue to successfully fundraise in order to pursue their mission, maybe this is not such a problem. Foundations and government organizations can easily access or solicit information on executive compensation and decide for themselves whether 4% is "too high."
Well, according to The Examiner, the Montgomery County Council has done just that.
The Council put their foot down on Shniderman and Food & Friends yesterday, with Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, rallying the troops to remove $55,000 in county funding that was earmarked for the coming year.
Councilman Leventhal put it simply, "“They can keep paying him, but we’re not going to contract with them.”
One could say it's a shame that this funding will not reach Food & Friends during a time when such services are needed more than ever or that the Council's decision was more about scoring political points than anything else.
But seriously, $350K?! Whether I worked at Food & Friends, was a recipient of their services, or a prospective funder, I think I'd still feel that number was tough to swallow.
How high is too high when it comes to executive compensation? Should Food & Friends have "learned their lesson" after initial bad press?