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2016-2017 Nonprofit CEO Compensation Study

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Common question asked by nonprofit Boards: "How much should a nonprofit CEO get paid?" Common questions asked by donors: "Is that charity CEO over-compensated?" We at Excellence in Giving have to answer this question all the time for major donors our firm advises. And we have the data to do it.

Since we collected 75,000 fields of detailed organizational data over the last 2 years, we can now release an excerpt of our nonprofit CEO Compensation findings in 2018. Our study includes data from 372 nonprofits whose CEO compensation was analyzed according to staff size, annual expenses, CEO tenure, and geographic location. Here are the results.

Average nonprofit CEO pay in 2016-17: $138,815

Looking at a national average for CEO pay is virtually worthless. Organization size, location, and sector all greatly affect CEO compensation. For example, the highest nonprofit CEO salaries are found in Healthcare, and secondarily Education. Those numbers get skewed by large nonprofit hospital systems and big universities.

The biggest factor affecting CEO pay is Annual Expense. The average CEO at a charity with $750,000 in annual expenses makes $78,256 while the average CEO at a large charity spending over $50 million a year gets paid $313,150. Use the chart below to benchmark CEO pay at charities:


Expense Total

CEO Comp


Under $500K



$500K-$1 million



$1-$2 million



$2-$5 million



$5-$10 million



$10-$50 million



$50+ million




If you want to see how staff size, location in or outside major U.S. metro areas, and CEO tenure affect pay, you will need to subscribe to our Nonprofit Analytics database. All the data from our study is stored in that database, and the full insights of our study are made available to subscribers at all 3 levels. You will know how much a charity CEO should be paid once you understand all the factors. Sign up and receive the full Nonprofit CEO Compensation Report today so you can start giving with the insight and confidence all our Excellence in Giving clients have across the country!


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Tags: Charity Evaluation, Nonprofit Analytics, Nonprofit CEO Compensation

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