Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are Six Figure Salaries Justified Of A Non-Profit?

With public opinion heavily slated against the BSA's practice of giving high salaries to its executives, I might be facing an inevitable flame war for what I'm about to say. And no, I'm not playing devils advocate.

There are legitimate reasons that the BSA could have for being generous in there compensation packages. My reasons follow, in part.

First, let me acknowledge that the initial sticker-shock that most people felt when confronted with a $214,000 salary is justified. As a point of comparison, the Deseret News cites Dick Cheney's salary to be only $1,700 more. This data point alone should be enough to give pause to anyone that has contributed funds to "Friends of Scouting". However, it should not be the factor that decides whether we will donate. WP has given many reasons that he will not contribute that are legitimate, but are open to debate. For it is his opinion on the efficacy of the organization that has been expressed. For example, he feels that the Roundtable events offered in his area are sub-par. This point does speak as to whether BSA executives are worth their pay. If the program is unsuccessful, then the larger paycheck is not justified. If, however, we like the "fruits" of the scouting program, then we might want to contribute to "Friends of Scouting".

The second point is that non-profit organizations must compete with the rest of corporate America for the same labor pool. There is not some mystical Shangri-la of independently wealthy, and fully qualified executives that are lining up to serve for lesser compensation. People that have put themselves into the workforce expect to be paid for their work. Of course, there are exceptions, but we shouldn't plan for rare cases. I would expect the BSA to compensate their employees on par with similar organizations, of a similar size, within the state. If the highest paid BSA executives got lesser pay than other organizations would provide for the same work, then I would expect that the BSA would adjust the compensation to match.

Third, if it is true that these executives are working 60-80 hours per week, then it should be expected that they will be compensated for their extra time and effort. Folks that are willing to work extra hours are, in a sense, the exception to the rule. If true, it speaks a great deal about the caliber of the people that are attracted to scouting as a career choice.

Lastly, I expect that the BSA could have immunized themselves against these criticisms were they to divest these employee's of some of their responsibilities and authority. They could have divided a six-figure income six ways among six people, but the end result might not have been as effective. I think the BSA has benefited by having a flat organization in Utah where participation in scouting is so high among the youth.

I contributed to FOS this year. Not only in donating my time to collect offerings, but in monetary form. I can't say for certain whether I will contribute next year. I suppose I will evaluate the program on its merits and decide whether the BSA has proven capable of producing what I expect of them. It may not have been stated so succinctly elsewhere, but it is my feeling that the purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to produce godly young men who will become leaders in this country. So, if I can see that leadership to be a product of what the BSA does next year, then I will pay what I can to this organization.

Other bloggers also weighing in on this issue follow.

Utah Conservative
The Life I am Choosing...
Reach Upward

This has been reported first in the Deseret News, followed by the Salt Lake Tribune.


WP said...

Donate time and money to your local troop Tyler. Ask your SM if he needs a lantern or a stove or a tank of propane. Help the boys in your ward. Take them and your check book to Nielsen's and treat them to a frozen custard. They have pumpkin this month, though raspberry remains my favorite.

The Duty to God is a much better program, in my opinion, for preparing YM for mission service and life, and it comes almost free to us.

Tyler Farrer said...

That's good advice, and I agree that the Duty to God is a better program. But scouting has a broader reach, and I still see a benefit to society at large.

Again, I have no problem with folks donating to their local organization, as opposed to FOS. I just liked your other reasons better for not donating than just, 'those guys are earning too much money for a non-profit.'

WP said...

My boys and I are going to build a 15' composite and glass boat from the blueprints up. We'll get a Composite Materials merit badge in the process because we are still engaged, but it could be done entirely under the umbrella of the D to G program. Next summer we'll be motoring around a lake somewhere. We will not need BSA to do this. Maybe their trip permit and insurance but the LDS Church has insurance as well.

Allie said...

I'm torn too Tyler. The salary was a shocker, but I had always assumed that the FOS money stayed in the troop. From what I can tell, scouts don't see any of that money directly.

They (or the troop) still pay for uniforms, merit badges, camps, and books. Not at cost either.

I already donated this year, but will have to think about it before I do so in the future.

I read some of the posts on the deseret news article and agreed with whoever said that they felt the FOS was an inappropriate way to raise money.

Jeremy said...

I'm surprized you can't wrap your head around the idea that there isn't possibly a way that a scout administrator is worth $200k+ per year. The whole idea that the church is used as a fundraising tool (FOS) for an organization that blows so much money on its administrator bugs me.

Reach Upward said...

"They (or the troop) still pay for uniforms, merit badges, camps, and books. Not at cost either."

This is true for everything but camps. I've been on the inside of the BSA camping program, and I can tell you that camps would be substantially more expensive without FOS. Your donations to FOS make it possible for a lot more boys to go to camp than could otherwise. Without FOS, BSA camps would be for rich kids only. It's expensive to run summer camps.

I know some businessmen that have a summer camp scholarship program for low income boys. If you don't want your money to be funneled through the council, you could consider doing something similar.

The salary of our executive in Ogden isn't out of line at all for his job description ($122K). Seeing a guy in a neighboring council pull in nearly double what our guy makes gives me some pause. He does not have double the workload or responsibilities of our guy. Then again, perhaps Ogden's guy serves at a bargain rate.

I don't like comparing these guys' salaries to politicians. You can't just take anybody off the street and have them serve effectively, but we do that with politicians all of the time. We ask politicians to take time away from their normal pursuits for public service. It would be difficult to implement a similar model in the BSA. Council executives have spent many years being deeply committed the the ideals of the BSA and learning how to do their jobs. It would be more fair to compare them to school district heads.

I am heavily involved in the BSA and have been for many years. I owe much of what I am today to my experiences with the BSA during my teen years. I have also been heavily involved in the Duty to God program since its re-invention. It's a great program that is more spiritually centered and more flexible in many ways than Scouting. However, it also fails to fulfill some needs addressed by Scouting. Perhaps another reason that the LDS Church continues to use the BSA as the activity arm of its Aaronic Priesthood program is so that church members can influence and add strength to a broader program that stands for great values and ideals. The BSA is under assault from the politically correct crowd. Without the LDS Church, the BSA would either cease to exist or would probably become a radically different organization. If either of those things were to happen, our world and our nation would be a worse place. It's tempting to pull inward and let the rest of the world go down the tube, but I don't think Savior had that in mind when he told us to let our light shine.