The Highest-Paid CEOs of Poorly Rated Charities

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- To give is to receive, and it's fair to say that donors who give to charitable organizations are interested in what the leaders of those organizations receive.

Nobody would be surprised that charities work in many ways similar to corporations and share a need to attract top leadership in whatever way they can. An experienced and well-connected CEO can bring good management and wealthy contributors, but for a price.
To give is to receive, at least for these 10 charity CEOs who collect huge salaries from questionable charities.

Last year we looked at the charity CEOs who take in the most cash overall and found a mixed bag of organizations of varying quality. This time, with the help of leading charity-rating organization CharityNavigator.org, we limit the pool to charities with two-star ratings or below (out of four) that pay their dear leaders more than a half-million dollars annually.

Here we look at the top 10 CEO salaries to give donors an idea of where at least some of their charitable dollars are going.

10. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Executive vice president: Ralph W. Hale
Salary: $570,008
CharityNavigator score: 42.91
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is one of the oldest associations of medical professionals dealing with women's health, and while it was a four-star charity in the early 2000s, it has earned two or fewer stars in seven of the past eight years. The group's low rating is partially due to administrative expenses of 38.7%, and the chief executive's salary accounted for an extra 1.07% of the group's $45 million of revenue in 2009.

9. RAND Corporation
CEO: James A. Thomson
Salary: $592,707
CharityNavigator score: 49.75
The RAND Corporation is without doubt one of the most influential policy institutes in the U.S., and the California-based organization's size (it employs 1,700 people in 50 countries) surely makes it a handful to manage. While CEO James A. Thomson collects a salary that's among the top 10 on this list, RAND's $260 million-plus revenue means it makes up only 0.22% of the total. The charity gets a two-star rating from CharityNavigator, in part for its lack of independently audited financial filings, and its score is well below the average in the research and public policy category.

8. American Ireland Fund
CEO: Kingsley Aikins
Salary: $632,376
CharityNavigator score: 46.63
Based (appropriately) in Boston, the American Ireland Fund has a mission to raise funds from the global Irish community to support programs back home in the North Atlantic. It's a rather small organization, with a $9 million budget in 2009, and the CEO's salary accounts for more than 7% of the group's expenses. The Fund's two-star rating comes entirely from its financial efficiency, an improvement from its low-30s score for 2008.

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7. March of Dimes
President: Jennifer Howse
Salary: $633,132
CharityNavigator score: 49.08
Most of us know about the March of Dimes, formed in 1938 with a mission to combat infant mortality and birth defects in the U.S., and that brand recognition represents an amount of trust that generates more than $200 million a year in revenue. For such a large organization, that means the president's salary makes up only 0.3% of expenses, but other signs of poor administration have earned it one- or two-star ratings from CharityNavigator for nine straight years. The many comments on the site paint a complicated picture of the organization, with complaints about the group's marketing strategy and public relations.

6. The Paley Center for Media
CEO: Pat Mitchell
Salary: $639,115
CharityNavigator score: 49.12
Previously known as the Museum of Radio and Television in New York, the Paley Center was founded by the legendary Bill Paley, who created the CBS network. The group runs a museum and comprehensive archives of media in many forms, with a budget of close to $19 million in 2009. Pat Mitchell has been president since 2006, during which time the organization underwent a modernization and rebranding program that accounted for a significant proportion of rising revenue, contributing to the group's two-star CharityNavigator rating.

5. Joslin Diabetes Center
CEO: Ranch C. Kimball
Salary: $678,641
CharityNavigator score: 49.95
Affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Joslin Diabetes Center is one of the oldest groups in the U.S. to target the disease, and its $126 million in revenue in 2009 attests to its reach. The center consistently scored four stars until it dropped a star in 2005, and its current two-star rating (for the 2009 fiscal year) shows a number of categories where the charity ranks below the average for organizations targeted at diseases, disorders and disciplines. The president's salary, while high in the absolute, represented less than 0.7% of the group's expenses at last count.

4. Music Center
CEO: Stephen D. Rountree
Salary: $685,198
CharityNavigator score: 47.47
Based in Los Angeles, the Music Center performing arts center is in a city with a lot of competition, so it's not surprising that attracting acts and audiences is a challenge. President Stephen D. Rountree collects more than $650,000 a year to make the most of the center's $45 million budget, making up 1.55% of expenses.

3. WHYY
CEO: William Marrazzo
Salary: $708,972
CharityNavigator score: 49.13
Public broadcasting has been a guiding cultural force for decades, and WHYY has been a mainstay of the Philadelphia airwaves for years. Contributions added up to nearly $28 million in revenue last year, which go toward the network's educational and documentary programming. Competing with private media companies is a tricky business, so WHYY puts a significant amount of resources into a good leader. CEO William Marrazzo makes more than $700,000 a year (2.7% of annual expenses) for a charity that gets only a two-star rating, due in part to the amount spent on fundraising, which is a yearlong challenge for many such organizations.

2. U.S. Golf Association
Executive director: David Fay
Salary: $747,328
CharityNavigator score: 49.13
Golf is a sport commonly associated with the upper tier of income earners in the U.S., and the national body for the sport pays the second-most lavish salary to its CEO of any two-star charity on the list. At close to $750,000, that is still less than 1% of the group's annual expenses of more than $100 million, though, none of which comes from the government.

1. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
President: Michael Kaiser
Salary: $1,103,429
CharityNavigator score: 46.49
The only million-dollar salary on our list goes to Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. One of the leading performance spaces in our nation's capital, the Kennedy Center welcomes presidents and dignitaries from around the world. The president's salary represents only 0.67% of the organization's 2009 expenses, but the charity's two-star rating reflects its position well below average on a number of indicators compared with other performing arts groups.

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