This time of year our mailboxes are swamped with pitches from charitable organizations, often tugging at the heartstrings with pictures of cancer-stricken children or stories about healthcare success stories that we could help achieve for others.
So, we select those that we want to support and send what money we can. Since I'm now mostly retired, our contributions are for modest amounts. But still, my wife and I want to help where we can.
But then, when I saw this list from Charity Watch of the obscene salaries being paid to the CEOs of many of these organizations that we support, I feel like a fool. I thought my money was going to finding a cure for cancer. Instead, it's supporting the grandiose lifestyle of some big shot CEO.
In my opinion, that's the definition of a ripoff.
All of this was brought to my attention by my friend, Harold "Buster" Hatcher, chief of the Waccamaw Indian People here in South Carolina. Hatcher copied me on the following email that he sent to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of my favorite charities:
"Dear manager, I have been an avid supporter of St. Jude for years even during my military years. This is to tell the management team, that I will cease my support almost immediately.
"I have learned that the St. Jude CEO is earning $904,243.00 every year. There is no way, in God's green earth, that such a salary can be justified. At a standard donation of roughly $20 a month, it takes 45,212 donors, just to pay your CEO's ridiculous salary.
"According to the stats I see on the web, St. Jude treats 7,800 patients. I applaud the work St. Jude does and I want to help the children. But I will not donate to any nonprofit that can afford to pay their CEO such an ungodly amount every year!.
"Any capable Army 0-5 or higher can do that job and they work in danger, in foreign countries, and away from families. The highest grade is 0-10 and after 40 years of service, their salary is about 21,000 a year (Basic pay).
"I will advertise my reasons for stopping my allotment."
Actually, Chief Hatcher is incorrect. According to Charity Watch, Thomas E. Merchant, St. Jude's chairman, received compensation of $1,249,628 as of June 30, 2017. I agree with Chief Hatcher that such a salary for someone who runs a charitable hospital is obscene and I will withhold my contributions, as well.
But according to Charity Watch, that salary is a pittance compared to what others in similar capacities are pulling down. The highest paid by far is Craig B. Thompson, MD, president & CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, with total compensation of $5,303,958.
He is followed by Robert W. Stone, president & CEO, City of Hope & Affiliates, at $2,281,832; Jeffrey Ackman, orthopedic surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children, $1,899,832; Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association, $1,850,348 and Edward J. Benz, Jr., M.D., past president & CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, $1,503,221. There are many more.
It just doesn't seem right that those of us who contribute what we can to support these worthwhile organizations should be supporting such extravagant compensation packages for a single individual. Why couldn't these people suffer along at say $250,000 a year and use the rest of that money for research and treatment for those patients they are sworn to serve?