After the criticism of the Smithsonian for its CEO's compensation, a comparison raises doubts about the reasonableness of another institution's top salary.
There has been some buzz in the Washington Post (Nora Boustany) and elsewhere about the link up between Google Earth and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (EIN 52-1309391 Form 990) that provides high resolution photographs of the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. There's even been some backlash, like the commentary by humanitarian air worker Conor Foley in the UK Guardian (Googling Genocide) that claims that the presentation oversimplifies the situation and could encourage an ill considered response (think Iraq).
But of course my interest is in charities and so I took a closer look at the museum's Form 990, especially after seeing the video presentation of the Darfur project by museum director Sara J. Bloomfield. Because of the recent resignation of the head of the Smithsonian over issues of compensation, I took a look at how the Holocaust Museum compared in terms of scale of operations and top staff salaries.
Holocaust Museum 2005 Attendance
1.6 million Contributions
$32,213,545 Total Revenue
$149,796,686 Board Members
65 voting Director
Sara Bloomfield Compensation 2005
In every main measure of size, the Holocaust Museum is one-fifth (contributions) to one-fifteenth (staff) the size of the Smithsonian. But in terms of salary, Ms. Bloomfield receives one-half of the salary of Mr. Small, which was successfully branded as excessive.
It's not to say that Ms. Bloomfield isn't doing a great job. There is an annual Performance and Accountability Report that shows a highly detailed listing of goals and measurements against those goals. The point is that Lawrence Small had an impressive record, too, especially in the area of fund raising. That was not enough to justify the salary, which Sen. Charles Grassley compared it to that of the President of the United States (currently $400,000). So it would seem the same comparison is applicable here: no matter how good a job she does, how can the head of the Holocaust Museum command the same salary as the President?
Just as with the Smithsonian and the Red Cross, the board structure also raises concerns. There are sixty-five voting members of the board, including ten sitting members of the House and Senate, plus three ex officio, non-voting members representing the departments of State, Education, and Interior. A board that size has proven unmanageable for the Red Cross and the NAACP, leading to a revolving door in the executive.
This board avoids similar difficulties most likely because Ms. Bloomfield has been with the organization since 1986, long before it opened its doors in 1993. She became director in 1999. As a quasi-founder, Ms. Bloomfield can manage the current board. So in this case, the more pressing issue and concern is whether the board can provide any meaningful oversight over someone who has known the organization's operations for decades and yet is probably a long way from retirement (she's in her mid-50s). I'll venture that attracting and nurturing the next generation of leadership will be the most critical problem for this organization.