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Western Pennsylvania nonprofits slowly increasing pay -- and work -- for leaders

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9:33 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Mike Hepler, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls club helps Jaimar Gilbert 10 of Lawrenceville, with his math homework in a study room at the Estelle S. Campbell Boys and Girls Club in Lawrenceville, Thursday. Hepler has been involved with the Club for 44 years.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Shaniyah Ellies, 9 of Garfield plays pool at the Estelle S. Campbell Boys and Girls Club in Lawrenceville, Thursday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Mike Hepler, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls club shows a trick shot Jasmine McBride, 15 of Stanton Heights while McBride was playing pool at the Estelle S. Campbell Boys and Girls Club in Lawrenceville, Thursday. Hepler has been involved with the Club for 44 years.

The pay of nonprofit leaders in Western Pennsylvania is rising, a sign that charities may be recovering from the recession.

Yet, some executives for charitable organizations say numbers don't always tell the story. As the recession hit nonprofits, many leaders cut administrative jobs and absorbed the work, essentially doing more for less. Some even refused pay raises.

“My workload is 70 hours a week now. If I'm lucky, I get some of the weekends to myself,” said Grace Coleman, executive director of Crisis Center North in the North Hills, which helps victims of domestic violence. Her total compensation rose from $68,090 in 2011 to $71,137 in 2012.

The Tribune-Review asked GuideStar, a national nonprofit watchdog, to complete a salary review for nonprofit CEOs in place for at least two years. The study looked at the salaries of hundreds of executives, based on federal financial documents for 2007 through 2010.

It found that median pay raises here were minimal during the recession — less than 1 percent and under the national average. After the recession ended in June 2009, the median raise was 2.4 percent, higher than the national average.

Inflation ranged from 4.1 percent in 2007 to 3 percent in 2011, a low of 0.1 percent in 2008.

Total charitable giving exceeded $7.9 billion in Pennsylvania, according to a 2008 study by Grantmakers of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Grantmakers.

“Nonprofits, in general, were starting to bring (pay) increases back after the troubles we had in 2008 and 2009, but they were not as robust as we saw earlier in the decade,” said Chuck McLean, vice president of research at GuideStar. “There was still a little bit of economic hangover, a worry about increasing things too soon, too fast.”

The president of United Way of Allegheny County, which collects donations for nearly 4,000 charitable programs every month, said nonprofits continue to struggle even if salaries are rebounding.

“They're attempting to keep their talent,” said the United Way's Bob Nelkin. “They don't want to lose their leader.”

Forty-six percent of groups said they expect their financial situation to be the same or worse a year from now, according to a 2010 study by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management.

Mike Hepler, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, said he has not received a pay raise since 2007. His total compensation dropped from $137,381 in 2007 to $117,700 in 2010 and 2011.

“These are tough times. If you have to make sacrifices for the mission, then you do the right thing,” he said.

Times aren't tough for everyone.

Jeffrey A. Romoff, president and CEO of UPMC, made nearly $6 million in total compensation in 2011, up nearly 50 percent from 2010.

UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko said Romoff received $4.7 million in cash compensation in 2010, the same as in 2008. In 2009, he received almost $3.6 million.

“UPMC compensates executives fairly and competitively for leading one of the largest and most complex health care enterprises in the country,” she said.

In setting compensation, UPMC considers nonprofit and for-profit health and insurance organizations nationwide, she said.

At Crisis Center North, Coleman isn't complaining. Money is “not why I went into the movement,” she said.

Hepler said he has done the work of a former development director for six years.

“The board recognizes the value of employees, but we recognize there's a limited pot of money out there,” he said. “The competition for the nonprofit dollar is the greatest I've ever seen it.”

Nelkin wonders how lower-wage workers at nonprofits are faring.

“They're the ones who suffer the most,” he said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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