Let's examine the compensation of two highly paid "non-profit" executives: Kevin Adell, CEO of World Religious Relief, the owner of Word Network, and National Football League Chairman Roger Goodell.
Because they are non-profit organizations, the NFL and World Religious Relief are required by law to file the Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. This document discloses total revenue, total expenses, pay for top employees, and provides a breakdown of expenses. These documents can be obtained for free at the Foundation Center and Guidestar.
The following numbers come from the last three years of 990s that are publicly available. The accounting period for World Religious Relief is June 1 to May 31 and for the NFL it is April 1 to March 31.
Kevin Adell receives income from World Religious Relief and other related organizations.
Compensation from World Religious Relief:
Other compensation from World Religious Relief and related organizations:
This shows that CEO Kevin Adell received more than $17 million in compensation in three years. That may seem like a lot but Goodell was paid more than twice as much in three years.
Compensation from the National Football League:
Other compensation from the NFL and related organizations:
While many Americans will consider this compensation to be extreme for "non-profit" work, the IRS has a legal standard to meet when making the allegation of excessive compensation. The IRS document Reasonable Compensation explains this:
"Reasonable compensation is defined by Reg. 1.162-7(b)(3) as the amount that would ordinarily be paid for like services by like organizations in like circumstances."
Large non-profit organizations often use outside consultants to prepare a compensation report recommending how much the executives should be paid.
The Senate Finance Committee showed skeptism when reviewing the compensation studies for televangelists that it investigated:
Taking into consideration the compensation of for- profit CEOs and media personalities like Oprah Winfrey, Britney Spears, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, and David Letterman, and mindful that the minister also receives income from book royalties and consulting fees, the consulting company recommended that the minister‘s total compensation be set at $2 million. Note, however, that minister is only able to "reach" millions of people through the media, i.e., they are not physically present in the church. Thus, we questioned whether television and radio audiences should have been compared to the number of attendees as the Baptist study did.
It is possible that Congress could revise tax laws so that Adell and Goodell's compensation would be considered excessive compensation. Also, Senator Tom Coburn is sponsoring the PRO Sports Act which would eliminate the NFL's tax-exempt status. According to the New York Post, "Organizations from the National Hockey League to the Ladies Professional Golf Association also operate as nonprofit trade associations."
P.S. Kevin Adell was not included among the televangelists investigated by Senator Chuck Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee. Instead the Senate investigated TV ministries that did not file the Form 990.