How Much Do They Earn? Executive Pay At Mental Health Non-Profits


Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our mail box fills with pleas from mental health groups seeking much needed contributions. Before Patti and I begin writing checks, I review how much these non-profits bring in each year and how much they pay their top executives. Thanks to GUIDESTAR, checking the IRS 990 Forms for non-profits is easy.

In the Washington D.C. area, the Judge David L Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law provides the most generous compensation among mental health groups for its president, according to IRS filings. It paid a salary of $247,980 and an additional $29,415 for a total of $277,395, according to its 2013 filing. It listed its gross receipts at $4,713,817. (Note: additional pay is generally retirement and/or bonus.)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is the largest grassroots mental health organization, paid its executive director $207,045 and an additional $26,170 for a total of $233,215, according to its 2013 report. (It has changed directors since this filing.) It listed gross receipts of $10,912,588.

Mental Health America, which is the oldest consumer organization, paid $202,004 to its president, but those funds covered the salaries of its outgoing president and incoming one (who later left), according to its 2013 report. It reported gross receipts of $3,755,173.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is considered the third largest national mental health grassroots group. It reported gross receipts of $3,158,542 in its 2013 report and paid total compensation of  $112,458 to its president.

So are those compensation figures too much or too little?  For the answer, I consulted Charity Navigator .

Not surprisingly, there is a predictable relationship between the size of a charity and the CEO’s compensation – the larger the charity the higher the median compensation. Here’s how the median compensation for the various sizes of charities compare…Overall median compensation nationally is $120,396.

  Charities with revenues in the

$13.5 – $25 Million — $221,777

$25 – $50 Million $263,094

$50 – $100 Million $297,917

$100 – $200 Million $410,652

Over $200 Million $526,679

These figures demonstrate that as the size and to some degree the complexities of running a nonprofit increases, so does the salary of the institution’s top executive. So much so that if we probe deeper into the top tier of charities (by size), we see even larger salaries. Charities with total expenses of $13.5 million and greater, pay their CEOs upwards of a quarter million dollars. In illuminating this information, it is not our intention to give donors a reason to not support a great charity. Rather, we want donors to understand and appreciate that the top nonprofit leaders, those who are sought after for their ability to manage multi-million to multi-billion dollar institutions, and who are tasked with the mammoth goal of helping to make the world a better place, command significant salaries. On the other hand, in our opinion, it is evident that seven-figure salaries do not seem warranted, even in the largest sized charities. 

Nationally, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly called NARSAD), which raises funds for schizophrenia and depression research, reported gross receipts of $12,995,558 on its 2013 form, and paid its president $418,462, the highest compensation of the non-profit groups that I checked and much higher than what is cited by Charity Navigator in its chart.

One of its competitors when it comes to raising funds for research, The Stanley Medical Research Institute, generated $91,381,450 in gross receipts and paid its director $181,692 in salary and $40,870 in additional benefits for a total of $222,562, well under the Charity Navigator chart.

The difference between those two nonprofits is considerable.

Other well-known national groups that I checked included:

Fountain House in New York City reported gross receipts of $22,170,289 in its 2013 filing and paid its top executive $244,706 with an additional $47,255 for a total of $291,961, according to its 2013 report.

The American Psychiatric Association, the largest mental health group that I checked, reported gross receipts of $81,506,989 and paid its CEO a salary of $334,995 with an additional $30,895 for a total of $365,890.

The Carter Center raised $101,707,709 to finance its non-profit work. A portion was used to pay its executive director for mental health projects — $157,488 in salary and an additional $15,809. Total: $173,297.

The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care  reported gross receipts of $1,005,481 and paid its CEO $156,963 and an additional $11,917 for a total of $168,880.

In addition to those organizations, I examined the IRS records for several non-profits that interested me.

I’m an honorary board member on the International Bipolar Foundation which reported $387,458 in receipts and paid no executive salaries according to its 2013 report.

Bring Change 2 Mind reported $1,475,190 in gross receipts and $162,000 in a single salary to its executive secretary.

For fun, I checked the two sides fighting over Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis legislation.

On the opponents side: the National Disability Rights Network, which reported $7,432,369 in revenues, paid its CEO $200,506 in salary and $19,810 in additional compensation. Total: $220,316. The National Empowerment Center reported gross receipts of $1,206,808 with its top executive getting $97,194 in salary and $871 additional for a total of $90,065.

On the supporters side: The Treatment Advocacy Center reported gross receipts of $1,371,989 with its CEO getting $121,060 in salary and $15,420 additional benefits, according to its 2013 form. That’s $136,480.  D. J. Jaffe’s Mental Illness Policy Org. reported $11,768 in gross revenues and paid no executive salaries.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my contributions go to NAMI and to the Corporation for Supportive Housing, on whose board I serve. CSH, as it is called, helps cities find innovative ways to reduce homelessness. It had gross revenues of $44,479,384 and operates in numerous states. We paid our CEO in New York City a total of $207,960, which I now see is lower than most mental health groups with much smaller gross revenues. Based on Charity Navigator, our CEO is due a raise.

(All figures are 2013 reports, the most recent available.)




About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.