Monday, June 15, 2009

Are Jewish Organizational CEOs Overpaid?

The Forward: Yes. The Jewish Channel's Steven I. Weiss: No.

I was recently filmed for a documentary (which isn't showing until next month) in which I was asked the same question at one point. I had just been noting that a major problem in the Jewish community is the tremendous waste that seems to take place within Jewish organizations, as organizations dedicated to carrying out certain tasks end up spending very large percentages of their incoming contributions on overhead. I was a little perturbed by the question, but my answer was simple: I have no idea, as there simply isn't enough transparency.

On the face of it, however, while there are certainly institutions where people at the higher levels are overpaid in comparison to their duties and what they bring to the institution, I would tend to agree with Weiss that by and large, Jewish organizational CEOs (like most CEOs) are not overpaid. He sums it up well in the opening paragraph before dissecting some of the broader points:
This is suggestive of a general problem with lay-personomics, whereby people who make lots of money to do their jobs seem to be hated for that reason alone, and those who make less are seen as entitled to a specific slice of CEOs’ pie.
More importantly, and perhaps most importantly, a Jewish organization's CEO is typically a talented individual who has a pick of many jobs which he or she could otherwise be doing. Suggesting that the CEO cut back irrationally on his or her own salary to save what seems to be an unnecessary position is just foolish; not only would you be promoting further inefficiency in a time where the money could be better used elsewhere (Weiss suggests the charity work many exist for), but you're driving away a talented individual who helps make the organization succeed in the first place.

Are there administrators who are overpaid? Yes, there probably are - but because of their lack of success or because their pay is not commensurate with their responsibilities and duties in the first place. To get - and retain - quality administrators, however, Jewish organizations must be prepared to pay them in line with what they could expect to receive elsewhere, or expect to lose those individuals to other fields.