April 11, 2010; Union Leader | Even in the best of times, it’s not easy for heads of nonprofits to explain—sometimes justify—what appear to some as high salaries. With all the news about the recession taking a toll on charities, a group of nonprofit heads better be prepared to respond to a Union Leader report over the weekend that found the “job of running a nonprofit in New Hampshire can be very profitable.”

According to the newspaper’s review of public documents, “nine leaders of prominent New Hampshire charities earned more than $500,000,” while one leader’s pay exceeded $900,000. The paper found the richest pay went to presidents and CEOs of six hospitals. The highest in that group is Alyson Pitman Giles, the president/CEO of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, whose 2007 salary and compensation was $907,000, the last year for which records are available.

Those in the second highest pay bracket are in the education field. For instance, heads of Dartmouth College and Phillips Exeter Academy each earned $500,000, and the rector of St. Paul’s School was paid $448,000.

One person not surprised by these high levels of pay-even calling it a trend-is Fred Foulkes, a professor of organizational behavior and head of the Human Resources Policy Institute at Boston University. “The truth of the matter is some nonprofits have to recruit from the private sector. People will take a pay cut (for nonprofit work), but not that much,” he said.

Obviously not everyone who runs a nonprofit in the state is paid so handsomely. Those at the lowest end of the scale appear to be heads of nonprofits that run food pantries and homeless shelters. The former head of a Manchester shelter, for example, reportedly was paid $57,500 in salary and benefits in 2007.

Regardless of the amount any nonprofit leader earns, with scrutiny on the rise it pays to be prepared for questions that are sure to follow these kinds of disclosures.—Bruce Trachtenberg