December 11, 2001
Urban Institute

Despite the contentious nature of this issue, the debate regarding excessive wages and benefits in the nonprofit sector has proceeded without much empirical evidence. Instead, the discussion has relied largely on limited survey data from small samples of organizations. Indeed, studies such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy's salary survey, which focuses on just 0.2 percent of the largest nonprofits, provide only a narrow examination of a few exceptional organizations. This report draws on data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics to examine nearly 55,000 nonprofits that reported the ages and benefits of their chief officers on Forms 990 in 1998. The brief relates the executive compensation of these nonprofits to their size, activities, and reliance on different types of revenue. The relationships between top executive salaries and the nonprofits' program service revenues and management, general, and fundraising expenses are also examined.

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