Thingish Things

The Not-for-Profit Conversation

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jan• 20•12


There are more than three million not-for-profit corporations in America, and a heck of a lot of them receive government funding. Free money — as it has been for years — is awfully hard to resist, and non-profit programs have twisted themselves into pretzels to fit the guidelines of federal, state, and local funding streams. More than 140,000 not-for-profits, for example, receive New York State government dollars every year. Thousands more receive money from New York City and other municipalities. 

Now, Governor Cuomo has issued an executive order declaring that not-for-profits with executive directors earning more than $199,000 per year cannot use state funds to pay those salaries, except in certain circumstances.  The order is effectively useless.  Money is fungible. A not-for-profit can easily move funding streams around to pay an executive director whatever it wishes.  It can simply designate non-state funding channels to salaries.

But Governor Cuomo has started a conversation that  not-for-profits have dreaded for years. That is, government can no longer afford to pay for every organization with a catchy mission statement.  Only not-for-profits serving essential needs — and there are many of them — should be getting government support. (Not-for-profits can often provide services more efficiently than government can.) Governor Cuomo, who has extraordinary political acumen, wisely chose to fire this shot at highly-paid nonprofit executives. It was a safe and popular way to initiate this public dialogue. But make no mistake about it, this conversation is only beginning. 

These pages came under passionate fire a year ago for raising this issue. But this, unmistakably, is where things are headed, and rightly so. 

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One Comment

  1. Daniel Suib says:

    So…let’s talk about it. I agree. Who makes the decision on which not-for-profit organizations create “essential” needs and to “whom”. This is always the slippery slope we go down when we try to designate who is…and who isn’t important in our society.

    I agree with you Bill…we need to talk about this. It has become way to familiar to hear of these types of organizations with leaders that are being paid huge salaries with public “donations”.

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