Examining the Salary of Planned Parenthood’s Richards Using Real Numbers

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Cecile Richards 2011 Shankbone 2” by David ShankboneOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

September 30, 2015; New York Times

A succinct article in the New York Times answers the question posed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-R) to Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, about the level of her salary. His intention was to prove its lavishness, but in fact, as the NYT article states, her salary is rather restrained for a nonprofit of the size of Planned Parenthood, which had revenues of approximately $1.3 billion last year, and in its restraint is emblematic of a gender gap in the pay of top nonprofit executives.

But first, here was the question in all its accusatory glory:

CHAFFETZ: Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?

RICHARDS: I don’t have the figures with me. But…

CHAFFETZ: It was. Congratulations. In 2013, your compensation went up some $240,000. Your compensation, we’re showing based on tax returns, is $590,000, correct?

RICHARDS: That’s not my annual compensation. I—actually, my annual compensation is $520,000 a year. I believe there was a program that the board sort of put together for a three-year…I’m happy—again, I think we have been extremely forthcoming with all of our documents.

But as is reflected in GuideStar’s compensation report, about which we wrote a few weeks ago, the executives of the 3,335 nonprofits with revenues of more than $50 million bring home an average compensation of $689,973, about 17 percent more than Ms. Richards earned in her best year. (In fact, only 200 nonprofits in the country have revenues that exceed those of Planned Parenthood, so that 3,335 may be too broad a group for comparison, but it will have to do.) The GuideStar report also states that the gender gap varies by budget size, with the smallest disparity being 6 percent and the largest being 23 percent, but for organizations like Planned Parenthood, with annual budgets over $50 million, the gender pay gap is 18 percent.

So when Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-D) reacted to Mr. Chaffetz, accusing him of “beating up on a woman, our witness, for making a good salary” and called his comments “totally inappropriate and discriminatory,” she was right on target. Not only is Richards’s salary not outsized, but what she makes is below the average for her peer group by 17 percent for running a far larger organization. Just the facts, ma’am.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Eric Fraint

    Ruth, as usual, you are right on the money. I’ve also written on the pay disparity of nonprofit executive directors. See my blog at: http://ericyptc.com/2013/03/30/executive-directors-are-underpaid/ .

  • Yes, but…

    The exchange between Richards and Chaffetz shows both to their disadvantage. Every nonprofit CEO should know that their compensation is public record. Any nonprofit CEO – especially one testifying to Congress under stressful circumstances – should be prepared to answer questions about it.

    What Richards should have said (assuming it’s true, of course) is that the PPFA board sets her compensation based on an independent process. The relatively sudden increase in her compensation between 2009 and 2013 is notable, but explainable, and placed her compensation well within the range for similarly-sized nonprofit organizations.