There is compensation and then there is EXCESSSIVE compensation. This is EXCESSIVE compensation!
Charity watchdogs question the evangelist’s $1.2 million in compensation last year.
Concerns about his rising financial compensation during tough economic times have prompted evangelist Franklin Graham to temporarily give up future contributions to his retirement plans at the two charities he leads.
As president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, he receives two full-time salaries and two retirement packages. Last year, his total compensation from the two Christian ministries was $1.2 million.
The size of Graham’s total 2008 compensation – $535,000 from Samaritan’s Purse and $669,000 from Charlotte-based BGEA - drew questions from nonprofit experts interviewed by the Observer. They doubted that one person – even the energetic, globe-trotting Graham – can do two full-time jobs leading organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world.
As head of the Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, Graham earned more last year than any other leader of an international relief agency based in the United States. That includes eight with larger budgets, according to data compiled by Guidestar, a group that monitors nonprofits.
Graham, 57, and his two boards of directors pointed out that most of his 2008 compensation came not from increases in his salaries, which have remained flat in recent years, but from accelerated contributions to his retirement. Graham received no retirement his first five-plus years at Samaritan’s Purse and first year at the BGEA. The boards said they were playing catch-up and hoping to satisfy his goal of working for free when he reaches age 70.
In addition, Graham and the boards said, nearly half of what he received last year from BGEA – $300,000 – was deferred retirement money that had been committed and reported over three previous years. Under new IRS rules, which have affected other nonprofit CEOs, the money had to be reported as a lump sum in 2008, the year Graham became eligible for the money.
Even with that $300,000 – plus accrued interest – taken out, Graham’s compensation at BGEA rose 21 percent in 2008, from $250,000 to $303,000. The median increase for CEOs at the nation’s biggest charities in 2008 was 7 percent, according to an annual survey released last week by the Journal of Philanthropy.
Graham acknowledged last week that his compensation total “looks terrible” and that “people won’t understand it.”
News of his pay hike comes only months after BGEA laid off more than 10 percent of its staff.
On Tuesday night, several days after the Observer began asking questions about his compensation, he asked the heads of the two ministries’ compensation committees to cut off contributions to his retirement plan “for the time being.”
The evangelist and his wife, Jane, “are grateful to the (boards) for these contributions to my future retirement, but in the current economic climate I don’t feel good accepting such retirement make-up provisions,” he said in a statement e-mailed to the Observer. . . . . .