List: The Highest Paid Charity CEOs. How Much is Too Much?

The top paid charity CEO earned over $2 million. Is that excessive? But how can large organizations recruit top talent without competitive pay?

How much should the head of a nonprofit earn? A few hundred thousand? How about $2,659,540? That's the top of the list of the 15 highest paid charity CEOs compiled by the watchdog Charity Navigator.

Before you get too upset, that seven-figure pay out is likely an aberration. That's Zarin Mehta's salary as head of the New York Philharmonic, much of it in deferred compensation from past years. His normal salary is just about $1 million.

Still mad? Hold on. He and other leaders regularly earn more than $1 million per year. Medical research organizations and arts groups like the MoMA and L.A. Philharmonic tend to be the two types of groups that pay in this range. On the medical side, you have to pay a great doctor hundreds of thousands, or a million, to run an organization or they will just, well, practice medicine and earn it the old fashioned way. Should we say we don't want the top talent?

For the arts groups, have a look at what percentage of the overall budget is going to the top of the pyramid. Sometimes its just 1 percent or less. Others its more than four times that. In this sphere there is certainly an influence from the extremely wealthy donors and culture of the upper crust that bleeds into notions of appropriate pay.

Thanks to Charity Navigator for crunching the numbers and keeping watch on what is certainly sometimes, excessive pay ... but not always.

How much should the head of a charity earn? How much is too much? What if they bring in more than their salary in extra donations? Or extra impact? How much should someone forgo to serve a cause?

(via Newsweek with breakdowns and analysis of the top 15)

Image: (CC) Metropolitan Opera NYC, by Flickr user MACSURAK

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