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Kling’s cash, contextualized

Last month, I reported that Minnesota Public Radio president and CEO Bill Kling was paid $606,753 for the year ending June 30, 2008.

Last month, I reported that Minnesota Public Radio president and CEO Bill Kling was paid $606,753 for the year ending June 30, 2008. That touched off a 51-comment debate about whether Kling’s comp was appropriate, especially in the wake of new public subsidies from Minnesota’s habitat-arts sales tax.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune published its “Nonprofit 100.” (Sorry, no link; it’s “exclusively in the paper” until Wednesday.) MPR’s Bob Collins — Kling’s chief defender in the comment thread — tweeted on his personal account: “Story nobody will talk about: MPR exec compensation is lowest among Strib 100’s arts/culture breakout. Shhh. Don’t ruin the narrative.” (Anyone who knows Collins knows he works for the company but is his own man.)

Bob’s right: Kling’s comp as a share of MPR’s expenses ($114.7 million) was the lowest (0.5 percent) among 12 listed “arts and culture” nonprofits. His share was less than half the sector’s median (1.2 percent). It was, for example well below Bruce Coppock’s take for running the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2.9 percent of expenses). Coppack made a bit more than half as much ($367,380) as Kling for running an organization one-tenth the size ($12.7 million in expenses).

Other noteworthies: Twin Cities Public Television’s James Pagliarini (1.3 percent), the Guthrie’ Theater Foundation’s Joe Dowling (1.9 percent), or the Walker’s Kathy Halbreich (1.0 percent).

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Had Kling been in any other non-profit sector, his comp would’ve been about average. According to the Strib, top-officer comp in the health care sector averaged 0.5 percent of expenses; ditto for education non-profits. Social-services big-boss payouts were just a bit higher, at 0.6 percent.

Of course, there are plenty of non-profit execs who make less, relatively, than Kling. UCare’s Nancy Feldman ($604,190) nearly matches Kling’s take but leads an organization with over a billion dollars in annual revenue and expenses. Size helps; 33 of the 37 biggest health care concerns paid execs under half a percent of expenses, as did eight of the top 12 social services providers and 15 of the top 18 educational entitites.

I’m sure there are all kinds of apples-to-oranges factors here, such as slightly different fiscal years, and dependence on donations versus “business activities,” not to mention government support. The Strib stats only reflect the top exec, not the management team, whose cost could be lean or fat, relatively.

One thing I am left wondering: Why do arts and culture organizations pay their Great Men and Great Women more, relatively than other major nonprofits? Insights welcome, as always, in the comments.