Michelle Nunn’s Lucrative Years Running a Nonprofit Organization

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Michelle Nunn’s Lucrative Years Running a Nonprofit Organization

Georgia Democrats are quite excited about their candidate for Senate, Michelle Nunn.

Here’s how her campaign describes her work in the nonprofit sector:

Seeing a need in Atlanta for a vehicle by which young people could engage in service to solve problems in their own communities, Michelle and a group of friends got together to create Hands On Atlanta, with Michelle as its first Executive Director. Over the next decade, Michelle grew volunteerism across Georgia, and eventually throughout the country, through Hands On Network, a national outreach of volunteer-service organizations. Michelle was selected for a three year Kellogg Foundation Fellowship that gave her an opportunity to travel the globe and work with civic and religious leaders to help them translate the common ground of their faith and ideals into building better, more productive communities and services.

In 2007, Hands On Network merged with the Points of Light Foundation, President George H. W. Bush’s organization and legacy. After leading a successful merger, Michelle became the CEO and President of Points of Light, now the largest organization in the country devoted to volunteer service.

Sounds good, right? When Nunn was running Hands on Network, she was making $120,000 – a lot of money to most folks, but not that much more than the average of a CEO or executive director of a nonprofit in the Southeast. (In 2012, the average was $111,693.)

Except that when Hands On Network and Points of Light Foundation merged, they eliminated a lot of jobs. A lot. From 2007 to 2010, the staff dropped from 175 to 80 employees. By itself, that would hardly be a scandal; when two nonprofits merge, there are often a lot of duplicative positions and inevitably, some people get let go. The economy took a severe tumble during those years, of course, and so it’s reasonable to conclude the hard times hit the nonprofit as well.

It’s just that after the merger . . . Nunn’s salary went up. A lot.

In 2008, Nunn received $250,000 as CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, according to the organization’s Form 990.

In 2009, Nunn received $197,506 as CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, according to the organization’s Form 990, and the same in 2010. (Form 990)

In 2011, Nunn received $322,056 in total compensation, with a base compensation of $285,533 as CEO of Points Of Light Foundation, according to the Form 990.

Her personal financial disclosure lists her 2012 salary as CEO Of Points Of Light Foundation as $270,770 and her 2013 salary as $214,231.

Who knew there was so much money to be made in encouraging other people to do volunteer work?

The explanation from Nunn to Politico was that she made less than her predecessor.

The public usually yawns at executives making enormous sums while running non-profit institutions . . . 

In its analysis of 3,929 charities, the charity research group found that 11 nonprofits paid their CEOs more than $1 million in annual salary and bonuses in 2011. CEOs at 78 of the charities were paid between $500,000 and $1 million.

But they may not be quite so forgiving of a nonprofit executive who’s laying off staff and enjoying a higher salary simultaneously.