Kathy Postel Kretman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership, considered the 2014 salary earned by the CEO of Boston’s Jewish federation “ridiculous…above and beyond what is normal.”
But James Abruzzo, a compensation consultant to nonprofits and cofounder of Rutgers University’s the Institute for Ethical Leadership, viewed Barry Shrage’s payment that year as “not something that would raise a red flag with me.”
Both experts were talking to the Boston Globe about the $1.34 million payout Shrage received that year, in addition to his base pay of $343,000 and $220,000 in other compensation — for a total of $1.9 million.
The two experts’ polar reactions to a year’s salary for Shrage, the CEO of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, reflects the large spectrum of opinion in the world of philanthropy about what constitutes reasonable compensation.
Shrage, who is approaching retirement, received the one-time payout to make up for what his philanthropy’s board of directors considered long years of underpayment. The federation at that time had a budget of $66 million and 170 employees.
Some experts say that philanthropies must pay salaries similar to that found in the private sector to attract the best executive talent. Others maintain that a decision to choose philanthropy as a career should include a commitment to the public service nature of this work.
Either way, though, Shrage is not alone. In 2016, Stephen Hoffman, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, received compensation of $1.3 million. Hoffman was already the highest paid federation executive; the Forward’s 2015 survey showed his pay for the previous year at $801,581. But a federation spokeswoman explained that Hoffman’s huge increase was due to an annual retirement payment that “required more funding as he neared retirement age.”
(Sam Norich, the Forward’s top executive for decades, also received a retirement payout — albeit a much smaller one — in 2016, as per his 2005 employment contract: $200,000 on top of his base pay of $210,000.)
As in past years, the highest paid executives in the Jewish world earned wages that put them comfortably among the country’s top earners in the nonprofit world.
Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal led this year’s list, with taxable compensation of $818,148. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, since Hier’s spouse, Marlene, and his son, Alan, also work for the center. Together the three of them pulled in $1.4 million in compensation.
Others in the top five were Alan Gill, the recently retired CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, who earned $735,181; Howard Kohr of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who made $735,181; Richard Joel, who retired this year as president of Yeshiva University, and pulled in $687,548, and Alan Kadish, president of Touro College, who made $678,324.
“Maybe they’re all really good CEO’s,” said Linda Lampkin, another charities expert, speaking generally about highly paid executive leaders in the Jewish philanthropic world. Lampkin, who works for the Google Economic Research Institute, said that salaries reflect a combination of factors, from the size of the organization to the kind of board they have, to how they fit in with their peers.
“If you’ve got massive outliers, they may get higher increases until they catch up with the market,” she said.