Monday, November 26, 2012

POZ: AIDS Charities,
$300K Salaries & Giving Wisely

Remember my September blog post about 12 executive directors at assorted HIV and gay nonprofits making $300,000 or more? A lot of grief came my way for conducting that informal survey via examining a few years' worth of IRS 990 tax returns. Friends and supporters of the executives defended the salaries and said it was wrong to sunshine the info.

Now, an unsigned post at the POZ magazine web site has picked up on what I wrote and put the details in the larger context of helping donors get the full financial picture from AIDS charities before making a donation. I couldn't be happier with everything mentioned in the POZ column:

But before you get into the seasonal spirit of gift-giving and fundraising, heed some advice from Charity Navigator, a nonprofit group that offers guidance on smart, responsible giving.

First off: Don’t make a donation to a telemarketer, even if the caller represents a group or cause you want to support . . .

Likewise, you want to know how much of your donations are going to overhead versus going to programs and services. Blogger Michael Petrelis raised this issue in September with a post titled “$300K-Plus Club: 12 Gay & AIDS Executives’ Pay.” After looking at tax returns for related nonprofit service organizations, Petrelis found 12 executives who broke the $300,000 annual salary mark. (HIV executives making the list in 2011 include: amfAR’s Kevin Frost at $388,000, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Michael Weinstein at $380,000, Food & Friends’ Craig Schniderman at $374,000, God’s Love We Deliver’s Karen Pearl at $318,000 and amfAR’s Jerome Radwin at $300,000.) . . .

Yes, it's good to get this compensation info out to more of the public and POZ goes further with helping donors (and clients) understand the important of transparency:

Another way to find fiscal info on your AIDS service organization or any nonprofit is to look for its IRS 990 tax forms on its website. Charities that are most transparent regarding their finances make this information accessible to the public. If you can’t find it, then don’t hesitate to call or email to request a copy. While you’re at it, ask for tax forms from the past several years so you can look for trends. 

Speaking of transparency, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation does not like it and makes no IRS 990 available on their web site. Good of POZ to recommend looking at a few years' of returns and to simply ask any charity for their tax filing. You can also find the returns at and help in understanding the forms at

Finally, once excellent point POZ makes that I want to reiterate is this:

It also doesn’t hurt to take a look at an organization’s board of directors. Are any of the members openly living with HIV? Do they represent the community the group is supposed to be helping?

After checking out the IRS 990s, ask the organization not only if people with AIDS are on the board or in top leadership positions, but also see what mechanism they have for client input over how the money is spent and services delivered.

Let transparency reign at all AIDS nonprofits!

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