Will New CEO of Famed Children’s Cancer Nonprofit Get a $1 Million Salary, Too?

By Suzanne Leigh

William Evans, CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the nation’s best-known pediatric cancer nonprofit has announced his retirement in 2014, after a decade at the helm of the Memphis, Tenn., facility that treats an average 7,800 young patients each year.

There’s no word yet on who will take over from Evans, a pharmacist who’s been with the hospital since 1972, but one thing seems to be clear: St. Jude must like him a lot.

That’s because the CEO salary, which was $477,920 in 2011, almost doubled to an astonishing $904,243 one year later, according to the charity’s most recently filed Form 990, which includes cash bonuses and expense accounts. This increase is a shocking contrast to that of the average nonprofit CEO, who last year received a raise of just 2.5 percent, said Charity Navigator, an organization that “guides intelligent giving” and ranks nonprofits’ financial health, accountability and transparency, and the social value of their outcomes.

Parents of children with cancer like St. Jude. I know I do and our family will be participating in one of their fundraisers next week. I lost my daughter to a childhood cancer and I’m grateful that one major nonprofit has dedicated its mission to developing better treatments for our children.

Among St. Jude’s more laudable coups, the organization has teamed with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in an attempt to identify the genetic changes that trigger the most deadly childhood cancers. In decoding the cancer and normal genomes of 700 young patients, scientists will be able to translate the discoveries into new ways to treat the diseases. This will be a boon for those pediatric patients with cancer survival rates that have stagnated for decades, including some types of brain tumor, bone and soft tissue malignancies.

Charity Navigator lists St. Jude as the nation’s ninth largest charity with total expenses nudging $900 million. The bigger a nonprofit’s budget, the fatter the CEO’s wallet, is the general rule when determining remuneration. But if we compare St. Jude with larger nonprofits, Evans’ compensation looks disproportionately generous.

According to Charity Navigator’s inclusion criteria — an organization must be granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) — the country’s largest nonprofit is the American Red Cross with total expenses of $3.3 billion, but its CEO commands a relatively modest salary of $591,122. In fact of the 10 supersized nonprofits listed, St. Jude’s CEO has the second highest salary, closely trailing the $905,018 compensation for the CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which has total expenses of $965,097,718.

In fairness to St. Jude, salaries of hospital CEOs are routinely extravagant. Earlier this year, a report by Kaiser Health News and ABC News looked at 30 of the largest public and private nonprofit health systems in the country, and found that the bonuses alone of nine CEOs were in excess of $1 million. In this light, Evans might even look like a bargain.

Charity Navigator disagrees:

“We do not believe that salaries approaching a million dollars or more are needed to attract bright, able and committed candidates to nonprofit leadership. Donors should be skeptical of charities that pay salaries hovering near or above one million dollars.”

Any comment, St. Jude? I’m sure your supporters whose donation dollars fund that salary would welcome an explanation.

This post follows: Would You Support a Children’s Cancer Nonprofit that Pays its CEO Half a Million?

To receive e-mail notification from WordPress after each new post of The Mourning After Natasha, please hit the “Following” button. WordPress will ask you for your e-mail only.

Back to menu …