The View From Here – Canadian charities are giving generously to their CEOs and other employees

Tom Henihan
Most of us assume that the people operating charities are committed to the cause that charity represents.

Considering the emotional and urgent plea to “please give generously,” it is also reasonable to assume that the vast majority of money given to charity is going to charitable causes.

An examination of tax returns done by The Canadian Press reveals that many employees of charitable organizations in Canada receive six-figure salaries with some well into the six-figure mark.

There are approximately 85,000 registered charities in Canada employing approximately one million people. These charities are obliged to reveal what their ten highest paid employees earn annually.

Last year, 6,000 employees of charitable organizations across Canada earned over $120,000 with hundreds of those receiving in excess of $350,000.

Recently released information shows that in Ontario many CEOs of charitable organizations in that province are earning six figure salaries with some at the top earning well over $300,000 a year.

I will list just a few of the top earnings at some of these organizations: Ontario Lung Association, $342,831 – Canadian Red Cross $321.299 – The Salvation Army, $303,956 and The Canadian Hearing Society $268,749.

We are often alerted to telephone scams masquerading as charities but looking at the salaries paid to these CEO’s you don’t have to pick up the phone in order to become the victim of a charity scam.

Charity is big business and people involved in big business receive big salaries.

In defense of these salaries charities say they need to pay top dollar to get the brightest talent.

However, this does not change the fact that money donated to charitable causes is being siphoned off in high salaries.

A spokesperson for Imagine Canada, which advocates on behalf of Canadian charitable organizations, offered this justification. “If you really want those charities to have an impact and make a real difference, you’re going to need to bring in the best people to work in that sector.”

That statement suggests that the most committed and talented people are those who want the most for themselves, which is the very antithesis of the definition and spirit of charity. Typically, whether in banking, business or charity this is the culture at the top.

In spite of the very well paid, best and brightest, it is difficult to assess to what extent these charities change the lives of those they purport to help.

However, it is apparent they are making a generous contribution to the lavish lifestyles of many of their employees.

Excessive salaries are not the only way that money intended for charity goes into private hands. Fundraising companies that work on behalf of charities often keep over 50 percent of the money raised.

Even with the exorbitant percentage these fundraising companies keep, an individual charity may raise more money than they could on their own initiative.

Nevertheless, this practice still results in a considerable amount of charity money being diverted from its intended purpose and finding its way into the coffers of private companies and individuals.

The answer to this situation is not to cease contributing to charities but to find a more effective means of ensuring that money is used for its intended purpose.

Charitable organizations need to be held to greater account as to where the money goes and should be evaluated on their effectivness in helping the people on whose behalf they are raising that money.

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