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Maia Efrem, the Forward’s research editor, selected a set of 16 non-Jewish charities to compare with the Jewish groups. “We didn’t just want to shoot in the dark, we wanted to get organizations that were as analogous in size and in their mission as we could to the Jewish organizations,” Efrem said.
Efrem included local chapters of United Way, which function similarly to local Jewish federations. She also included advocacy groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza, plus religiously oriented universities like the Catholic University of America, to match similar Jewish organizations on the Forward list.
Wyner found that CEO salaries at both the Jewish and the non-Jewish groups were 2% higher for every 10% more the group reported in annual expenses. The differences in compensation came not from the size of the groups, but from some other factor — perhaps from a different base estimate of how much CEOs should be paid.
According to Linda Lampkin, research director of ERI Economic Research Institute, which provides comparative salary information often used in setting executive salaries, the Internal Revenue Service expects boards to look at comparable salary data when determining compensation. “It’s an art, not a scientific science,” Lampkin said of compensation decisions.
Jewish groups may be structured in a way that impels them to pay more.
According to Mark I. Rosen, an associate professor at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, boards of directors at Jewish not-for-profits are generally thought to have more direct control over their organizations than the boards at other not-for-profits.
“Anyone I’ve spoken with in the past who has been involved extensively with both Jewish and non-Jewish nonprofits invariably tells me the biggest difference between the two is the board, and the influence of board members on organizational decisions,” Rosen said.
The Forward analysis was described to Rosen, though he did not review the methodology or the data. Rosen said that if the Forward’s findings are correct, they could be due to the combined effects of Jewish groups’ more powerful boards and to the concentration of businesspeople on those boards.
“There’s just going to be a different mindset in terms of what an appropriate compensation package is for an executive if the board is primarily composed of people from the business sector,” Rosen said.