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2018 Nonprofit CEO Compensation Study

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Common questions asked about CEO pay:

  • Nonprofit Boards: "How much should a nonprofit CEO get paid?"
  • 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.

We collected 70,000 fields of detailed organizational data from February 2018 to January 2019. So our nonprofit CEO Compensation study includes data from 396 nonprofits whose CEO compensation was analyzed according to staff size, annual expenses, CEO age, donor base, Board size, and geographic location. Here are the results:

Average nonprofit CEO pay in 2018: $147,625

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 first in Healthcare (i.e., large nonprofit hospital systems), and secondarily in Higher Education (at big universities). What are all the other key factors that control how much a CEO should get paid?


More Financial Responsibility = More CEO Pay

The biggest factor affecting CEO pay is Annual Expense. The average CEO at a charity with $750,000 in annual expenses makes $76,766 while the average CEO at a large charity spending over $50 million a year gets paid $314,411. You can 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




Top 5 Factors Affecting CEO Pay

If you want to see how staff size, CEO age, location in or outside major U.S. metro areas, donor base, and Board size affect pay, you will need to subscribe to our Nonprofit Analytics database. The full study is made available to subscribers at all 3 levels. The study even includes the top 10 list of highest paid CEOs in our database. 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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