Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chai Lifeline - Who Does It REALLY Benefit?

"Chai Lifeline is a not for profit organization dedicated to helping children suffering from serious illness as well as their family members." They are well known for programs such as Camp Simcha, which is a summer camp for children suffering from cancer.

I received a mailing from them recently asking for a donation. I have given them money previously, but I now make it a habit to first check a charity tracking service such as GuideStar or Charity Navigator.

GuideStar gave them a 4-star rating, and I thought "hey, not bad". But then something caught my eye on the page: Sam Zaks, the "Community Development Director" received a salary of $398,683 - or 2.56% of all expenses - in 2006! This merited further investigation and I perused their 2006 Form 990 available through Charity Navigator.

Here is some interesting information from the form.

Total revenue: $15,739,488 (Line 12)
Compensation for officers: $498,661 (Line 25a)
Salaries & wages of other employees: $7,996,028 (Line 26)

The top two directors received total compensation of approximately $500,000! They are (see Part V-A):

Stephen Scholar - Executive VP: $217,601 salary plus benefits of $66,691
Abraham Cohen - Executive Directory: $151,912 salary plus benefits of $62,179

The salaries for other employees is about $8 million.

Schedule A lists the compensation for the five highest paid employees. This includes:

NameTitleCompensationEmployee Benefits
Sam ZaksCommunity Dev Dir398,68395,514
Levi KatlowitzDir Com Dev188,52376,028
Aryeh AdestDir Com Dev131,64452,328
Mark PfefferController128,52341,953
Mordechai GobioffDir of Client Serv113,82650,371

Half a mil for Sam Zaks? What is a "Community Development Director" - the head camp counselor? A million bucks (plus more than 300K in benefits) for the top five not including the two top directors?? What's going on here?

I don't expect anyone to work for peanuts, but please don't give me the party line used by so many charities with outrageous salaries: "we need to attract top talent and be competitive with for-profit companies". There are many, many talented people who do work for peanuts at non-profits and who would gladly take the reins for a hundred thousand plus benefits!

This is certainly not a slam at the services that Chai Lifeline provides, only to raise what seems to be a questionable allocation of resources. If anyone can explain to my satisfaction why I am completely off-base here, I will immediately remove this post and replace it with an apology. And possibly even given them some tzedakah.


Baal Habos said...

wow. where do I apply.

Anonymous said...

They do wonderful work, but it sure sounds like there's way too much fat on top. I'm sure they could cut salaries as well as lay off some people. I'm afraid if word gets out that they pay these exorbitant salaries, it may hurt the level of contributions and ultimately, the kids with cancer will really suffer! What a shame!

-suitepotato- said...


Charities are still businesses even if structured a bit differently. The people who run them are business executive types who bring with them the business skills and importantly, the business networking contacts. They bring the schmooze and grovel, wine and cheese, talk and browbeat skills that are needed to make the connections to get the larger donations.

Shaming people into it doesn't work nearly as well as mutual back scratching and emotionally driven and well meaning people without contacts and networking skills are not worth as much when it comes to getting the money. Execs not only don't work for free, they don't work for cheap either.

Mickey said...

SP...I see your point but if you look at the total salary base for the entire organization, you have to scratch your head! In bad economies, many businesses are forced to cut back, so too should charities.

CL Recipient said...


Look at the huge financial firms. The CEO's make millions. If they keep the company profitable, perhaps they are worth it. CL has a 15 million dollar budget. I believe that SK is responsible for raising this entire amount. Perhaps without him they would only raise 7 million?

With regard to their services, I unfortunately have been on the receiving end, and I can tell you that their services are legendary.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

$7m expenses on $15m revenues is a very bad ratio - i say shame on the greedy exec's.

Anonymous said...

if your serious about wanting to know why the top guys get som uch please provide contact info ans I'll try to explain it to you

Frum Heretic said...

My contact info is my email address (frumheretic at gmail.com). If there is information that the public should know about, just post it here.

Anonymous said...

Sam zaks fundraised more than half their budget and was paid accordingly.