Charity Pays, if You Work for One

Report finds best-paid nonprofit workers are in philanthropy, religious organizations get more state aid than other NPOs.

If you're going to make a living in the third sector, your best bet for a high salary is in the business of philanthropy.

GuideStar Israel, an organization that runs the country's most complete database on the not-for-profit sector found that philanthropic organizations pay the best. The highest-paid philanthropy employees earning an average of NIS 20,523 a month. Those in the health field don't do too badly either; the average highest salary in that field hovers around NIS 18,500. Top employees of international organizations make an average of NIS 16,509. At the bottom end of the scale were religious nonprofits, where the highest-paid employees earned about NIS 7,300 a month.

The average salary of the highest paid employee in all nonprofits comes to NIS 12,593 a month, gross.

GuideStar Israel presented its findings, published in its annual report, at its conference in Jaffa this week. The report includes details on 34,000 organizations in Israel.

Jerusalem hosts the most nonprofits; 25% of organizations are based in the holy city. That's followed by Tel Aviv, with 22%, and elsewhere in the center, 19%. The West Bank region is very overrepresented, in terms of organizations per capita.

In 2010, 2,337 of the organizations, some 6.8%, received some form of state support, but these funds made up only 4% of all their revenues. Religious organizations received the highest share of government funds, with 10% of them getting state money.

In 2011, donations to 4,280 NPOs were eligible for income tax credits, some 12.4% of the total number of organizations. Of these, over a quarter were involved in religious activities and another quarter in education and research.

GuideStar's website presents official information extracted from the records of the Registrar of Associations in the Ministry of Justice, as well as complementary information uploaded by the NPOs themselves, to provide an up-to-date and comprehensive database of information. GuideStar itself is a not-for-profit project developed by philanthropic bodies and the government.

NPTech operates GuideStar Israel's website. The project is a joint venture of the Ministry of Justice, JDC-Israel and Yad Hanadiv, in cooperation with GuideStar International.

The method of presenting the information on nonprofits is new, and is a major step forward in transparency for the nonprofit sector, said Nissan Limor, the chairman of NPTech. Information on the sector is filled with preconceived notions and incorrect information, and this is the first time clear data has been presented, he said.

"GuideStar will put an end to the feelings that the world of nonprofits is corrupt, since [GuideStar] will reveal the figures. But at the same time, there is still a huge amount of research to be done on the matter," said Udi Prawer, the head of the policy division in the Prime Minister's Office. The most important challenge facing those in the NPO sector is how to reduce the organizations' overdependency on public money, he added.

"Transparency is a means and not an end, and it depends on how you use this data," said Ali Haider, the co-executive director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel. Government funding is a way of transferring budgets for political reasons, he said. "It may be legal, but it stems from politica. I would be happy to see more Arab organizations receiving allocations of government support," he said.

A representative of the Registrar of Associations said it was taking action to reduce the bureaucracy involved for small nonprofits, but that ultimately, that effort would require changes in legislation. Small organizations that do not even pay out salaries must today fill out all the same, numerous forms as large NPOs, and that is a problem.

None of the nonprofits that are listed on the GuideStar site paid for its details to be included, and any user may examine the entries freely and without charge. GuideStar enables foundations and donors to collect information about NPOs and to make decisions about the allocation of donations and grants, while an important goal of the site is to help NPOs in their efforts to raise funds and other resources.

David Bachar