average CEO salary We recently gave you the opportunity ask our CEO, Wess, any questions you like. We’re publishing his answers one day at a time.


  • How does it feel to be making such a large salary? Do you feel like it would benefit more children in poverty if you were to take a cut in pay so that more of those funds could go toward ministering to children? (Kayla)

This is a fair question because this is a non-profit organization and this type of information is on public record. Anyone who wants to find out what the leaders of Compassion make can review our 990 form.

There are some decisions that I don’t make around here, and all the decisions about what I’m paid fall to Compassion’s Board of Directors. Our Board believes that Compassion must exercise prudent business judgment in balancing the stewardship of the ministry’s financial resources, the needs of the employees, and the payment of salaries sufficient to attract and retain the well-qualified employees who are required to effectively carry out our ministry. It is important to Compassion’s Board of Directors that we represent both excellence and stewardship.

Part of our salary structure also dictates that all Compassion staff are paid relative to that of the top position in the organization, which happens to be mine. So, if I were to be paid less, it means that every person below me in the organization would also be paid less. I have staff reporting to me who are responsible for managing a budget of nearly $400 million. It requires a high level of management competency to effectively supervise all that has been entrusted to this ministry.

I wish we lived in a world where Christians could fully focus on what we feel the Lord has called us to do without also having to worry about paying a mortgage, putting children through college, caring for aging parents, planning for retirement, etc. But, this is a reality that American non-profits (probably including many of our churches and some government officials) have struggled with for a long time.

What my wife and I have determined – and what I think everybody has to determine for themselves is – what is enough? Anything beyond enough can trap you. I live a very modest life, with a modest house and a modest car. Once Donna and I figured out what was enough for us, we agreed to just give the rest away. In fact, we give quite a lot of it right back to Compassion—we sponsor lots of kids and support every other mission effort that goes out of this place.

The truth is I would work for Compassion for absolutely nothing if it were possible.

  • 95 Comments
  • Print This Post Print This Post
  • Add a Comment

95 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Kayla
    May 30, 2008
    at 6:32 am

    What a great answer, Wess. Thank you for your transparency and for being fair and kind in answering my question. I really didn’t want to step on any toes…was just curious, that’s all. I sponsor eight children myself and agree to your practice of living with just enough and then giving the rest away. Have a wonderful day!

  2. May 30, 2008
    at 7:40 am

    I live a very modest life, with a modest house and a modest car. Once Donna and I figured out what was enough for us, we agreed to just give the rest away. In fact, we give quite a lot of it right back to Compassion—we sponsor lots of kids and support every other mission effort that goes out of this place.

    God bless you Wess Stafford

  3. Allan
    May 30, 2008
    at 9:13 am

    Hey Wess,
    Thanks for answering that question, I know too many people who would have answered all of the questions except the one that dealt with finances. Thanks for being transparent and giving a great response!

  4. May 30, 2008
    at 2:24 pm

    Fantastic answer. Too often, I think we’re prone to judge others by what we see externally when we don’t know what’s going on internally. I know many couples who make scads of money (they don’t work for nonprofits, and they are in high levels of management). It would be easy to make assumptions about their values. But I also happen to know they, like you and your wife, give most of their income away. God gifts us all differently.

    I’m loving this series.

  5. Barb
    May 30, 2008
    at 3:36 pm

    I’m pretty new to Compassion and after reading this response it confirms all the positive things I have learned about this organization. I know I’m in the right place! God bless you!

  6. May 30, 2008
    at 3:46 pm

    Very well said! I have worked for nonprofits, and yes, they are generally way underpaid and lost talent to for-profits on a regular basis. In the U.S. at least, I think that people view nonprofit employees as overpaid if they are paid more than they are.

  7. May 30, 2008
    at 10:19 pm

    That was a wonderful answer! It reminds me a little of what I’ve heard Billy Graham say: “It’s not wrong to make a million dollars, it’s just wrong to keep them!” God blesses us all with various amounts of money. The amount of money isn’t really the issue. It’s what we do with it. I think of I Tim. 6, where there is instruction to rich people. It tells them to be generous, ready and willing to share. It never said that it was wrong to be rich, it just gave instructions, because with the money we can store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust doesn’t corrupt. Thank you, Wess for being an example of that!

    Blessings,

    Kees

  8. May 31, 2008
    at 9:23 am

    Whew! Talk about a truthful and honest answer, thank you Mr. Stafford. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions…we can see Jesus and His love for children shining through you in your words. Keep on doing what you’re doing, God bless you richly!!

  9. May 31, 2008
    at 10:39 am

    Kayla, you are AMAZING for sponsoring eight kids! What a great commitment that is. :)

    I like what was said here about being a good steward of the money you are given. That seems to be the key in Christian life. Some of us make a lot, some of us don’t, but what you do with it is what matters.

  10. Mike Stephens
    Mar 28, 2009
    at 11:12 am

    I agree, money is like faith it is best shared!!!

  11. Kairy Marquez
    Jan 14, 2010
    at 9:15 am

    I am so pleased with your answer. God bless you and your family always! You are a great man of God.

  12. Wayne
    Apr 18, 2010
    at 7:14 pm

    Sure …. “you would work for nothing if it were possible….” Riiiight….

    You make $250,000 per year.

    Kind of like Mother Teresa with a mansion.

    Reduce your salary to $50,000 and you are still paid above average in the US and you could also have a comfortable life. I suppose that the board would fire you for that.

    What kind of blog is this with only positive comments anyway?

    • Feb 22, 2011
      at 5:45 pm

      Wayne, name one CEO of a large corporation who earns as “little” as $50,000/year. You obviously have never met, or even heard speak, in public, our Compassion CEO. If you met him, all of your presumptions and stereotypes would crumble. As others have said, it’s not how much you have, but what you do with it.

      Wess answered honestly, with his characteristic humility and transparency. If someone were to ask you how much you have and how you use it to bless others, would you be as forthright?

  13. Apr 19, 2010
    at 12:23 am

    Wayne, we had a big debate over this issue about two years ago on the blog.

    Heads of nonprofit organizations earn on average 3.37% of total organizational expenses.

    Wess Stafford’s salary accounts for .07% of total expenses at Compassion.

    And the last time I checked, Wess was drawing the lowest salary of any head of a child sponsorship agency.

    That’s all information from the 2008 debate, so numbers may be slightly different now.

    But the fact of the matter is, Wess earns a fair salary for his industry and position. Compassion is responsible with its money and has an excellent reputation and track record.

    Wess has already said he and his family use what they need and give the rest away. I think that’s great. But I personally think he earns his salary fair and square and what he does with it is his business — whether he chooses to keep it or give it away.

    I think the much more compelling question is what does the LOWEST paid person at Compassion get paid? I’d hate to think that an organization dedicated to helping eradicate poverty abroad was creating poverty in the U.S. with low wages.

    Funny that no one ever asks about that.

    There are a lot of positive posts on this blog because there are a lot of dedicated child sponsors who are really into what Compassion is trying to do. But I’ve never hesitated to question something if I have a concern. Compassion has always been more than receptive — willing to listen and respond.

    As for Wess, there are some people out there who I can be cynical and suspicious of — Wess Stafford is not really one of them. I’m not the end-all be-all judge of mankind — but he seems like a really decent person who works here, (as opposed to the private sector where he could earn more to the tune of millions), because he cares about kids.

    Anyway, I’m glad there are people out there who question — that’s not a bad thing — this blog should by no means be a big yes-manathon. So I’m glad you’re here and welcome to the blog. :)

    Sorry for the long post — I always ramble after 1 a.m.

  14. Wayne
    Apr 19, 2010
    at 5:48 pm

    Lisa,

    In an earlier post here, the president began by saying that he and his wife promised to give their lives to the poor. On this blog he makes a ridiculous statement that he would work for free if he could and that if he took less money then everyone in the organization would receive a pay cut as well.

    But, you are incorrect in saying that he makes less than the leader in any other similar firm (which is kind of like saying, well everyone else does it….). But, I truly care about where I spend my money. I donated to CFCA and then I was upset to see that the leader there made $120,000 (less than half of what Wess takes in). I still think that $60,000 would be more than a fair salary for someone who proclaims that he dedicated his life to helping the poor.

    You go on to say, as many have, that Compassion has an excellent track record at being responsible with its money. Do they? A similar sized organization would be Save the Children. They spend 8% in overhead. A larger organization would be Feed the Children. They spend 9% in overhead. My choice and not too much smaller of an organization is CFCA. They spend just 5% in overhead. In comparison, your organization is off the chart at over 18% spent on overhead. Basically, for every $5 taken in, the company spends almost $1 on overhead.

    I want to support the cause 100%, but these are 2 very relevant points that should truthfully be taken into account when one has only glowing praise for all that the company does.

  15. Apr 20, 2010
    at 1:03 pm

    Hi Wayne, thanks for posting back. Alright, I put on my research cap. :) Long post a’comin’.

    But first I want to say I’m glad that you have a charity that you love. I will never criticize someone who is making an honest effort to help others. I always say “you’re at the table” and that’s where we want people to be. If CFCA is your charity of choice, I think that’s great. I think people would be surprised to see how much these organizations actually work with each other out in the field. I was just reading an article (on another site) about how reps from many different organizations were getting together in a particular country to address a crisis.

    Alright:

    PRESIDENT & CEO SALARIES:
    * World Vision = $376,799 .03% of operating expenses
    * Save the Children = $359,816 .07% of operating expenses
    * Childfund Intl. (Used to be Christian Children’s Fund) = $261,231 .11% of operating expenses
    * Compassion International = $206,673 .05% of operating expenses
    * CFCA:
    CEO Salary = $96,424 .09% of operating expenses
    President & Co-Founder Salary = $106,756 .10% of operating expenses

    (CFCA was the only organization I looked at that pays both a CEO and President, so both salaries are included on Charity Navigator.)

    All are WELL below the 3.37% average for non-profits. (Makes you wonder who IS taking those kinds of salaries in nonprofits.)

    ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES & FUNDRAISING EXPENSES:

    World Vision = 4.6%/8.5%
    Save the Children = 3.7%/4.5%
    Childfund Itl. = 6.9%/9.8%
    Compassion = 8%/8.8%
    CFCA = 2.9%/2.5%

    All are rated 4-star charities by Charity Navigator.

    My take on the situation is that they are all great organizations with enough differences to make one or the other preferable to different individuals.

    The numbers that I posted will fluctuate somewhat from year to year, but I would guess that all of the organization work to keep their numbers in line with acceptable industry averages.

    I think it is important to watch out for organizations that have numbers that are wildly out of line with industry averages. That’s where I would start to be concerned about fraud, etc.

    As someone who’s sponsored with Compassion for three years, I feel really great about Compassion’s program and what they’re doing.

    And….that’s all I have time to post! (Daughter wants lunch!) :)

    I will say, in my opinion, there IS a problem with excess in executive pay in the United States — but I don’t think it’s in this industry. I think what keeps these salaries so low is the fact that these organizations draw people who are altruistic, often religious — and they are willing to work for a much lower salary than what they would draw in the private sector.

    • Feb 22, 2011
      at 5:56 pm

      Lisa, I’ll throw this into the mix, too, even though I’m responding two years after the initial post: Compassion International receives absolutely NO government funds, at all. The other organizations do (I don’t know about CFCA). Those government funds would help, a lot, toward overhead expenses, but World Vision is only one of several faith-based organizations that has had to spend a lot of money on legal expenses, fighting the ACLU. As soon as the ACLU went after the Boy Scouts, several years ago, Compassion’s wise leaders decided they would not take a penny from the government.

      So, while it appears from the numbers that Compassion has a somewhat higher overhead the the others listed, look up how many $$millions some of these other organizations get from the government. Or for some, maybe it’s $$hundreds of thousands, and not millions.

      I’ll stick with Compassion – an organization with integrity, given Charity Navigator’s highest rating for…what is it, now? 9 years or 10?…because of its leadership, transparency in accounting, and stewardship.

  16. Apr 20, 2010
    at 3:21 pm

    Hi, Wayne,

    You bring up some good points. I am not familiar with how the other two organizations work with their funds. Sometimes, different parts of the expenses could be declared “overhead.” So, we’d really have to go a lot deeper into this issue to really see where what goes. For instance to handle the whole part of finding sponsors for the children, that part is considered overhead with the 20% or so of Compassion. Well, if the other organization does consider that not to be overhead, then adjustments would have to be made to truly make a comparrison.

    The Wall Street Journal has a magazine called Smart Money. A few years back, they did a study on integrity of charities. They put 640,000 charities through a grid to see if the money is going where the organization says it is going. They placed Compassion in the top 10 as far as charities is concerned.

    Relating to Dr. Wess Stafford’s salary. I don’t believe he sets that himself. From what I understand the board has certain guidelines as to how to determine someone’s salary. Part of it is that they want to make sure that they always get the staff, working there with a high standard of excellence to be a good steward of their resources. What Dr. Stafford does with his salary is really between him and God. Now, I know him and I believe him when he says that a lot of the money is going right towards charity. This is someone, who is very passionate about the cause of children. He is also very approachable.

    Now, I have visited about 60 Compassion children on various individual visits. I can tell you from lots of experience that these children are helped a lot. I just had dinner with a friend of mine. She worked for a huge organization that also does child sponsorship in Bolivia. Then she worked for Compassion for 5 years in Bolivia. I asked her what the difference was. She said the one organization (I’m not giving the name, but if I mentioned the name, you’d know it) would bring the children together once a month and then give them a meal and give them their letters. The rest of the time, they would devote to building roads, wells, you name it. With Compassion, it is all about developing each one of these children, one at at time.

    Also, with Compassion, they only work through local churches and each of these children hears the Gospel regularly. Also, when I write the letters, I can write them and share about Christ with the children. This to me is HUGE. Jesus said: “What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul.” Ultimately poverty is not having Christ. That is the key. So, I am very pleased with Compassion in that. It is all about releasing these children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

    When it comes to these salaries…, ultimately we stand before God ourselves. I like what Billy Graham said: “It’s not wrong to make a million dollars, it’s just wrong to keep it.”

    Blessings,

    Kees

  17. someone
    Apr 20, 2010
    at 10:47 pm

    I don’t have nearly the amount of research you three do, but I thought I would add something short from life experience. Christians pride themselves on using their money wisely. This, in and of itself, is a good practice, however many times, we try to cut corners and instead of using money wisely, we become just plain cheap. (Take for example, how many of the missionary built buildings collapsed in Haiti due to cheap building). Just because something is cheap (say a person’s salary) does not necessarily mean they are good. I have worked in a political situation where the politician who got elected was elected because he did the job for free…which upfront, seems like a good thing. But having seen the inside works, I know for a fact it is a very small price to pay for the freedom he gains to do many cruel and corrupted things. True, there are many good people who do good jobs for less pay, but it is harder to keep them there when they are paid so low. Coming from this experience, I would rather pay someone who does the job well and right as though he is worthy of the position he fills, than to fill the position with a cheaper “that’ll do” candidate. In the end, we should choose quality over quantity. I personally feel that there is quality as well as quantity made in this investment.

  18. Wayne
    Apr 21, 2010
    at 12:28 pm

    Then, Billy Graham was wrong and I am sure that by now he knows that. What is the use of making a million dollars if you are not going to keep it? As it applies to working for a charitable organization, there is no use of making a large salary and then saying, “Well, you know, I don’t actually plan to keep it all”. In fact that idea is a bit of a FARCE. If in fact you only need say $60,000 a year to have a decent middle class life, then just take $60,000 a year. Supposedly, you are dedicating your life to helping poor people, why do you need a mansion of your own here on earth as your reward? That is called getting rich byf helping the poor and I just cannot agree with that idea. It is also quite foolish and equally dishonest to say, “I am going to take a big salary, but it’s ok, I plan to give most of it back”. Ya sure, just be honest and take only what you need. There are a lot of well qualified people that would be willing to fill the position in that manner. There are a lot of wealthy executives in this world who really need the opportunity to redeem themselves by giving back to others. (They are the spiritually poor and they need help as well as the materially poor).

    • James Heil
      Feb 19, 2011
      at 5:33 pm

      This is great comment. There is far too much entitlement in this world. We are supposed to be examples. I wish you would say my gifts are a blessing from God and I owe it to Him to use them for good. Instead, you take pride in your gifts and think you are entitled because of them. It’s sickening. Would love to give to your charity, but I can’t deal with hypocrits. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right.

    • Feb 22, 2011
      at 6:09 pm

      Wayne, Wess Stafford didn’t say, “I plan to give most of it back.” He and his wife DO give most of it back, and he told in the post how they are doing that – or, at least, some of how they are doing that. And, by the way, Scripture teaches over and over that we are blessed to be a blessing; we receive in order to share with those who are in need. To make a million dollars and then hang onto it is utterly contrary to scriptural teachings.

      This blog is intentionally managed to allow a free expression of experiences, thoughts, beliefs, etc., for discussion. So I freely confess that I am supremely frustrated by the tenacity of your hypercritical and judgmental presumptions about a man you obviously don’t know, and an organization you obviously don’t know well. It is one thing to prejudge someone–that’s bad enough; it is something else to grasp tightly to those prejudgments in the face of so many people who know Wess and Compassion so much better than you do, as they tell you the truths you do not want to hear.

      And yes, I am as guilty of reaching conclusions about you, based on your comments, here, as you are of reaching conclusions about Wess Stafford, based on this blog post. I dearly hope–for your sake–that I am as wrong about you as you are about Wess Stafford.

  19. Apr 21, 2010
    at 2:30 pm

    Hi, Wayne,

    A couple of thoughts on that…

    God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. So, if I get more money, then that would be great, because I can help more children, not for me to buy a mansion. The Bible says: “Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust collect, but lay up treasures in heaven.” Interestingly, the Bible starts that command by “Do not” same as “Do not commit adultery.” Don’t do it. So, you do not need a mansion on earth. Who says that Dr. Stafford lives in a mansion here on earth?

    Then you can not redeem yourself. Only Jesus can redeem a person. The Bible says that we have all sinned. If we were to pay for our sins, we would have to spend an eternity in a place called hell. To get to heaven or be redeemed, you have to be perfect. That is why no one can be good enough to go to heaven. You can never sponsor enough children to wipe your sins away. So, Jesus, being God went to the cross and died there for your sin. He paid the price on the cross and then He rose from the dead, so that if anyone places their trust on Jesus and what He did on the cross, all of their sins will be forgiven and wiped away. Then they can know for sure that they are going to heaven. That is the only way to be redeemed. It’s only through the Redeemer, Who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I hope that makes sense. It’s a very important message.

  20. Wayne
    Apr 21, 2010
    at 4:00 pm

    Thank You, Kees, I like the second part of your answer.

    With regards to the mansion. It really does not matter what type of house the individual has, $250,000 per year represents the “comfort of wealth” which is enough money to purchase a small mansion in Colorado Springs (or whatever mix of particular comforts that the individual may choose). I am kind of against one getting rich by serving the poor. Comfort is what a rich person has. The bible (from Jesus’s mouth clearly brings issue with that particular aspect of monetary wealth).

    Again, I realize that in private industry … so, on etc. , well, people can really be overpaid. However, with an organization that solicits my hard earned money in order to help the poor kids of the world and a leader that said that he decided to “GIVE his life to helping the poor”, I expect something quite different.

    Regarding some of the previous comparisons, it is worth noting that Compassion actually has at least 9 individuals with an average salary of close to the $200,000 level. (Plus $100 million in Real Estate – all necessary just to give $400 million per year away to the kids….?).

    This information is all from the publicly available IRS filings, Form 990, found on the Compassion web page.

  21. Apr 22, 2010
    at 12:26 am

    Well, we agree on the most important part. I must say, that I don’t really have much of a problem with Dr. Stafford getting that amount of money. For one, I know him. I know that he is not the type of person to spend it on himself. As a matter of fact, if you met him and you raised this concern with him, he’d sit down with you and would be happy to really listen to you and talk with you about it. And if you convinced him that this is not right, I think he would request a change on that. That’s the type of person, he is from what I know of him. I’ve talked with him several times and one time at great length. So, when he says that he gives most of it away, I trust him.
    However, he’s not required to do that. It is his choice. Read I Tim. 6. It has some good principles in there for rich people. The instruction is not to stop being rich, but to be very generous.

    The question comes up whether it is appropriate for someone in a charity to make that much money. Of course, then the question comes up how much is too much. You mentioned $60,0000. To me, that is a lot of money. If someone gave me that type of money, I’d sponsor about 80 children! But each person has their own responsibilities and we shouldn’t judge them.

    In some ways, the way, I’m looking at it is that I look at the end result more than how much is used to achieve that end result. I am pleased, that with Compassion, the children’s needs are totally met and that most of all, they get the Gospel and are discipled in the local churches. I can’t say that with most sponsorship organizations. So, in a sense, it’s like when I go to buy something, I look for the best value and then I don’t worry about how much of that went to profit. I can tell you this, sponsorship has a HUGE impact on these children. If you could ask most of them what their biggest desire is in life, it would be to meet their sponsor. I’ve also heard of many Compassion children spending all night to pray for their sponsor about once a month. (That is not required by the way.)

  22. Apr 22, 2010
    at 12:55 am

    I think in the end it all comes down to a matter of opinion on what you consider a “fair” salary.

    Wayne thinks salaries are too high. I think salaries are just right. Some people think salaries should be higher to close the gap between nonprofit and for-profit firms.

    You can find a wide variety of opinions on this matter all held by intelligent, thinking, caring people.

    Just a few articles that cover the gamut:

    “Nonprofit CEO’s are Worth Every Dime” — argues that salaries are at the right level

    http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/21/brill-salary-ceo-philanthropy-intelligent-investing-nonprofit.html

    “Low Salaries Hold Charities Back” — argues that salaries should be higher to reduce the disparity between the nonprofit and for-profit sector.

    http://philanthropy.com/blogPost/Low-Salaries-Hold-Charities/10139/

    “Nonprofit CEO’s Who Want For-Profit Salaries Should Work at For-Profit Companies” — argues that executive compensation is too high

    http://philanthropy.com/blogPost/Nonprofit-CEOs-Who-Want/21792/

    Perhaps none of us will change the others’ minds, but I think it’s good to know all sides of the issue.

  23. Apr 22, 2010
    at 9:13 am

    Wow, Lisa, that’s amazing. I don’t know what you do or what your salary is, but you’ve got a real knack for researching something! I hope your salary is very high or they give you a big raise. In that case, I am looking for a sponsor for a boy in Cochabamba, Bolivia, whom I’ve met and I have other pictures of him. :-)

    Blessings,

    Kees

  24. Wayne
    Apr 22, 2010
    at 10:14 am

    Per the Forbes article, “the most critical dimension in evaluating a nonprofit has to do with achieving meaningful results.”

    This is the same flawed logic that is used to justify high salaries for CEO’s in business. Using that logic you could pay your CEO a million dollars a year. Why not go for 50% overhead? The poor will still be served. However, serving the poor is a lifestyle choice. The poor will always be with us. Helping the poor should be an honorable profession. It is not a business decision and this is the last place that donors want to see waste.

    (It is also not just the top person at Compassion, it is the top 9 executives, it’s the almost 20% overhead and it is the $100 million invested in Real Estate. Using the magic of Google Maps, I can see the beautiful office campus in Colorado Springs, must be a nice place to work. But, if Mother Teresa set up the Missionaries of Charity in that building, I would have some questions for her also).

    There is a real disconnect when a foundation solicits and then uses my money to help the poor as well as using the same money to allow its executives to live in luxury. Why should people want to donate both their hard earned time and money to support high executive salaries that they themselves will never get? This is not a money making venture. Those high salaries are not used to produce a high monetary income for shareholders. Best of all, it is not rocket science to help the poor. We do not need new technology or research, just effort. Everyone can do it.

  25. Apr 22, 2010
    at 12:30 pm

    Kees, I’m a stay-at-home mom who ironically DOES work for free. And I don’t anticipate getting a raise any time soon. ;)

    Wayne, I think you’ve made yourself really clear. You just plain think that CEO salaries at organizations who work with the poor should be much lower than what they are. Many agree with you, many don’t.

    Perhaps you could write letters to the boards of many organizations expressing your views, so they are taken into consideration on a more industry-wide basis.

    Ultimately, organizations don’t want to lose donors like you, who feel the way you do. And they don’t want to lose donors like me who feel differently. I’m sure it becomes a struggle within the boardroom as to the best way to deal with that — to keep costs down yet still function effectively and draw the best people to the organization.

    I don’t think anyone joined Compassion to become rich off the backs of poor people. That’s the only argument I’ll seriously take issue with.

    Slightly off-topic…

    It’s ironic that you bring up Mother Teresa. I think of what that poor woman has been criticized for over the years. She was criticized for offering inadequate and primitive care to the sick and dying, while herself flying to the United States to receive the best healthcare in the world on the dime of her donors. People have accused her of being in it for the celebrity, for the attention, etc. People have said that her vow of poverty was a sham and she was a political opportunist when it came to raising money.

    It leaves me feeling like no good deed goes unpunished.

    It seems like heads of charities, in general, become ligtning rods for criticism. And criticism by people who are actually doing very little to help anyone, (in this case Christopher Hitchens who wrote “The Ghoul of Calcutta” and other pieces on MT.)

    While I’m comfortable debating salaries and industry issues, I become uncomfortable when people cast negative aspersions on other people’s character and motives. I can’t imagine living the life of Mother Teresa and being called a “ghoul” for it.

    Anyway, I have A LOT of free time on my hands. Wayne, perhaps you and I can give Wess Stafford a break and offer to run Compassion for free. :) If you don’t mind my Kool-Aid stained wardrobe made entirely of sweatshirt material, and my five-year old hanging out with us, we could even share an office. :) Hey Compassion, call us!

  26. codebeans
    Jun 1, 2010
    at 7:13 am

    $200,000 per year is very little money for CEO who runs a 4-star rating organization. Wess was in our church as speaker and as a church, we gave our love offering which he said that he will turn 100% of it to Compassion. He is a great man. God bless you and family abundantly and in many ways, Wess.

  27. Jun 13, 2010
    at 11:03 am

    It is easy to complain about someone earning more money than yourself. The true question to ask is whether or not you would accept significantly less for your work than market price. Wess has done that, and is to be commended.
    Working for a for profit company, in a similar capacity, Wess would earn somewhere around 1,000,000 +. Working for Compassion International is costing him 4/5ths of his salary. Who among us would sacrifice that much of our salary to do something we cared about? The icing on the cake is that he takes what’s left of his modest salary, and gives it right back!

  28. Angela
    Jun 22, 2010
    at 2:11 pm

    1 Tim 5:17 “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.” (NLT) FYI – some versions do say “double honor” as opposed to “paid well”. Either way, they are deserving.

    I realize this particular blog is a few years old, but as it is still getting views, I just have to add a some comments (if you don’t want to read the whole long thing, skip down to the last paragraph as it is most important). I can only imagine the difficulty there must be for the board of a non-profit setting the CEO or president’s salary.

    I personally worked for an audit firm who specializes in non-profit organizations, and I can say that there are definitely “ministries” out there who abuse the money that comes in. However, a quick google of most any of those organizations will turn up those who have been on the inside and are ready to stand up for what’s right and tell everyone who is listening to find another organization to support. That said, I firmly believe Compassion is an upstanding organization seeking to use their resources as God would lead them.

    Just to settle a few issues with the numbers that were given on overhead expenses (although I realize salary is the main issue here, but I’ll get to that in a moment): 1. There are different ways to report based on an organization’s accounting system. Some organizations use accrual while others use cash. Typically this is standardized within an industry, but it can affect numbers. 2. Accounting is not as black and white as many people think. There is a lot of gray area. As was touched on earlier, how an organization decides to “code” expenses can vary from one organization to another, thus creating disparity and making a direct comparison difficult without taking into account many details that are not reported directly in the financial statements.

    So regardless of what appears on an organization’s financial statements, one must realize that there are many ways to manipulate those numbers and there are organizations out there who routinely do. It’s difficult to just look at numbers and determine if an organization is doing what they should be. My advice to anyone giving to a charity is to get involved beyond just looking at financials and you will begin to see if they are running well or not – plus you will have the rewarding experience of working for the kingdom of God!

    But, the main issue here is salary. For that, my personal belief is that while those working in upper levels of non-profits perhaps should not make quite the same as in the private sector, they should be paid well for their work nonetheless. At the very least, being paid well is scriptural. Check out 1 Corinthians 9. Paul gives some great analogies and it’s hard to refute after reading this passage that we should not pay those working for God. After all, the Levites (priests) devoted their lives to working for God and were given many good things as part of their service. It’s difficult to say what amount is reasonable, but certainly anyone who is at a high level of an organization with many responsibilities should be paid accordingly. $200,000 isn’t much given the level of responsibility for running an org of this size.

    In the words of Paul (1 Cor 9: 11-12) “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? ” Wess Stafford is certainly deserving a proper salary and Compassion is blessed to have him as president. He could earn much more elsewhere, but has given of himself to serve God. That in and of itself is admirable!

  29. Wayne
    Jun 22, 2010
    at 2:33 pm

    Angela,

    I guarantee you that Paul and Timothy were not talking about receiving a salary that was a multiple or 5 or 6 times the average or about a salary that was 15 or 20 times the minimum wage in the community. That concept is only accepted by some in modern America. Does not make that concept right.

    For someone who stated that he devoted his life to helping the poor, there is a very real disconnect here!

  30. Angela
    Jun 22, 2010
    at 7:09 pm

    Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for the reply. I have just one other thing that I would like to mention and then I will let this rest.

    For most of my life, I have to say that I had the same sentiment as you. Taking Crown financial is probably what swayed me somewhat in the other direction when they gave us the scriptures I mentioned above. But that aside, I want to elaborate on the Levites which I also mentioned above.

    They, of course, had the sole job of working in the temple in various roles. Some were singers, some were there to make the sacrifices, etc. Numbers 18 is also very convincing for me as an example of how those who work in and for the church should be paid well. Here are some excerpts:

    “…all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion and regular share. . . This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. . .I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel. . .I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the Lord as the firstfruits of their harvest.. . .”

    Notice the Levites received ALL of the tithes, offerings and even the sacrificial offerings with the exception of anything that was supposed to be completely burned or the firstborn. And they were to receive the FINEST of the wines and oils. They of course were to tithe 1/10 of their “income” if you will, as well. But beyond that, they were denied no fine thing. And giving to the poor was a completely separate ordeal from any of this. In modern day terms, what does that mean? I would submit that the salary of a non-profit president is completely separate from what the ministry itself is in terms of how it is set. And that if he turns around and gives a portion back to God (as the Levites did), then he is mirroring the life they lived in service to God quite well.

    I will say that we agree on this one point – it should not be excessive. But as to what is excessive, that is another matter. In that the president is making a large sacrifice in terms of what he could make in another organization, I believe that $200,000 is acceptable. To be rich is not sinful in and of itself – after all, it is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. That is a concept difficult to understand in this culture of plenty where typically much money tends to lead to much corruption. And. . . I would be willing to bet that the concept of someone receiving a salary that is “a multiple of 5 or 6 times the average salary” is not accepted by the majority in modern America for the non-profit arena, but I think it’s also important that we not look at it from solely a superficial perspective of “wow that seems like a lot of money”. There’s more to it than that – which is, I suppose, what spawns the debate.

    In any case, you and I may never agree, but that’s OK as long as we are each giving as God leads. I just wanted to give you some food for thought. Whether it sways you or not I don’t suppose matters in the long run, but I wanted to share because as I said before, I felt the same way until I had looked at it from every point of view. So I just wanted to give you another perspective on it. Thanks for taking the time to read my post!

  31. Jun 22, 2010
    at 11:02 pm

    Hi, Wayne,

    You keep bringing this point up and it is definitely seems to be a difficulty for you. I don’t have a problem with it, knowing Wess and most of all being right here in Bolivia in the very student centers. I see how the money is used. I see the huge impact it is having and that every penny is accounted for and being spend very carefully. You would be suprised at how much care there goes into every detail of this ministry. For instance, when a sponsor writes a letter or a child writes a letter, it is handled with the greatest respect and precision. They don’t want one letter to get lost.

    Having said that, I would suggest that you would not give to Compassion, because I believe that you should be totally convinced in your own heart that this is what is the right ministry and that your money is spend in a Godly way. We can talk about it more, but I think we are just going into circles and at the end no one has learned or gained any thing.

    Blessings,

    Kees

  32. Wayne
    Jun 23, 2010
    at 7:40 am

    Kees,

    A ministry can always have care in every detail. I would hope yours does. Care is not dependant on the size of one’s paycheck, which is the topic of discussion in this particular section here. The leader of this organization said here that he needs his money to pay his mortgage and to put his kids through college. He also stated that he devoted his life to helping the poor. I see a disconnect.

    In the New Testament, God calls us to “love our neighbor as our self”. This is not, “I need my stuff and he can have the scraps”.

    And we should talk more, even if you find yourself going in circles. I pray that you find your way out. In America too many people have turned “Love your neighbor as yourself” into empty words like, “I will but first, I need $250,000 a year to pay my kid’s college, my mortgage and my car” (read Wess’s opening statement here). But, “I can still say that I gave my life to the poor of the world”. God calls us, but we say, first I need to get these many and expensive material things for myself.

    It can be done for less. I call all of the top executives here to look at IHOP.org. The leader there brings in lots of money from book sales, yet he only takes a salary of $37,000 per year. All that I have said here is that about $60,000 per year would give the top ten leaders here (who make over and about $200,000 each) a comfortable life while working with the truly poor in the world (which they do). Set a good example. You can find many seasoned executives who would be willing to join you.

    I do think that someone has learned from this discussion. You could also. Think about it and re-read my older posts.

    On cannot “give” his life to helping the poor while “getting rich” from that same work.

  33. Jun 23, 2010
    at 11:27 am

    Wayne, when you refer to IHOP and a $37,000 salary, are you talking about Mike Bickle????

  34. Jun 23, 2010
    at 1:23 pm

    And is this the Mike Bickle who was involved in the Kansas City Prophets?

  35. Wayne
    Jun 24, 2010
    at 9:53 am

    Lisa,

    IHOP.org is currently a pretty large and influential organization. I would rather not use this forum for personal e-mail or personal anything. The topic here is Wess’s salary (in fact the top 10 executives pay here). For that reason, I mentioned a couple of comparisons. I also previously mentioned CFCA, which is more of an exact comparison, but whose leaders make a fraction of the amount at Compassion (and I mentioned Mother Teresa who also did the same job).

    All that I am saying is that the leaders and the overhead at a charity for the poorest of the poor in the world, should not take large salaries. This really should be a work of compassion. (At IHOP, they use a term that I like, “a fasted lifestyle”). Every extra penny the leaders here at Compassion take for themselves is a penny that comes directly out of the pocket of very, very poor people. It should be a selfless job to serve the poor, not a job for the self and selfish gain.

    Just to put my own money where my mouth is, I applied for a finance job (my background for 20 years) yesterday at Compassion. I put in a salary requirement that is about a third of what I could make on the open market. I hope that this sets a good example. We shall see.

  36. Jun 24, 2010
    at 10:55 am

    Large and influential means nothing to me. There have been plenty of large and influential organizations that have done a lot of damage.

    All I’ll say is when you join an organization — be it a charity, a ministry, or a church — do your research. Who is the leadership — do they act with integrity and wisdom? Do they offer a message that is Biblically-based and Biblically-sound? Is the program consistent with the word of God? And, yes, are the resources used properly?

    Perhaps that is the message of this thread. We all have the same tools and the same ability to investigate the organizations with which we affiliate ourselves. Do some legwork before you partner with anyone or any organization.

    Wayne, I do wish you the very best and pray that God guides you to the very best for your life!!!!

  37. Aug 10, 2010
    at 12:34 am

    I am pleased that Compassion is allowing an open debate of this issue on its blog. This is a very important subject.

    If donors want to give their money so that charity executives can earn luxury wages (In 2008 Stafford’s salary was $214’943+ $34’743=$249’686 it is certainly more by now) they should be able to do so.

    I will no longer fund these kind of excesses. I see no reason to donate to a charity which was created to help impoverished children, while the management team is living in luxury. This seems contradictory to me. There are plenty of other charities which pay their executives a “living wage” and not a luxury wage. All it takes is a little research to find them.

    • James Heil
      Feb 22, 2011
      at 1:46 am

      It’s really difficult when you just want to help and none of these organizations will operate with integrity. It makes me very sad.

  38. Aug 10, 2010
    at 10:50 am

    I think this article is excellent.

    http://blogs.hbr.org/pallotta/2010/01/executive-compensation-charities.html

    We live in a society where college football coaches draw $4 million dollar salaries, heads of symphonies earn $1.5 million dollars, with little to nothing said. (And, yes, those are nonprofit organizations.) But when heads of organizations that help the poor earn a salary that is commensurate with their education, experience and ability to lead effectively and draw funds for the organization, donors start pulling their funds.

    From the article:

    “Indeed, there’s a direct correlation between leaders’ nearness to suffering and public outrage over their compensation. If you’re conducting Mahler’s 5th, no worries. But if you’re trying to end poverty in Malawi, watch out. The situation is seen as a zero-sum game, in which any money going to the professional is money being taken away from those suffering. Taking the money is morally wrong; the person has sinned. It doesn’t occur to us that the presence of a better, more highly paid professional may generate more money to the cause and to the people in need.”

    I think money spent on an excellent CEO who can take that organization to the next level is money very wisely spent.

  39. Nov 18, 2010
    at 12:49 pm

    While I would never attack Wes for what he makes, I do believe a comparison to anyone but Jesus is WRONG! Jesus is our standard and what did He make?

    The Son of Man had no place to lay His head.

    If you want to compare Wes’s salary to anyone’s compare it to Jesus’.

  40. Nov 18, 2010
    at 1:39 pm

    I think my last comment may be read in a way that I did not intend so, I would also like to add that I understand that God blesses those he chooses. I am in no position to judge anyone else or what they make.

    It’s common that people in positions such as these and pastors to be looked down on for making a significant amount of money in our society, but I’m not sure why. If you look at the life of Abraham he was very blessed with material wealth yet it never interfered with His service to God.

    I personally love what I see being done here and cannot wait to have each one of my children sponsor a child!

    Thanks for your service, I pray God will continue to bless this ministry. After all, he is the one who gives and takes away!

  41. Jesse
    Dec 1, 2010
    at 3:06 am

    I agree with Wayne 100%. CEO’s of non profit or in easier terms to understand not for profit should not be making that much money. My uncle is the president for goodwill ind. in Pittsburgh. He makes around 100k per year. His job involves alot of travel and alot of responsibilty. He has to oversee programs that give jobs to blind and others with disabilities. He has to oversee operations of over 100 goodwill stores in the north east. So I do not think 60k is fair, but anything over 100k is excessive. I guess you have to base it on what they have to do for there organization. How can one sleep at night knowing that there are children around the world starving and you are able to afford luxury items. Did you enjoy your meal last night. All.you guys say a dollar a day right. How many children went hungry last night due to the excessive salaries ov you and your boars members. People do what you want with your money. If you want to pay this guys salary its up to you. Its no suprise that forbes was able to look at what 600,000 different non profits. You ask me they should all get together and make one huge fund ran by 1 board. Then I could understand higher salaries, but wait that could never happen because they all make to much money on there own. Wayne get back to me, mabey we could start our own non profit, I would be more than happh making 60 k per year. Oh yeah by the way football programs are not, not for profit. The highlh paid coaches bring in talent, talent sells tickets, concessions, merchendise, ect… Then the team wins, the team gets bowl games, they get money for these games. Where does the money go you may ask… Some to pay that coach, his staff, teachers, and the rest to the school.

    • Dec 13, 2010
      at 9:10 am

      School football programs are nonprofit organizations. By definition, they do not distribute surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but use the surplus to help pursue organizational goals. That is the definition of a nonprofit.

    • Doug
      Dec 13, 2010
      at 12:55 pm

      If you’re going to use Goodwill as an example, you need to look at CEO salary, not just what your uncle makes. Goodwills are divided up by region. The CEO of each region makes $350,000 to $450,000 a year on average. Goodwill is a great company, but their regional CEO’s are making as much or more than Compasson’s CEO.

  42. Victoria
    Dec 12, 2010
    at 11:58 pm

    I too think the salary is excessive. If Wess gives most of that away then that is great, however everyone else’s salary does not have to depend on his, that was something the organization decided and could change. Also, it looks bad to the non-Christian world. It looks bad to me, and I love Compassion, how could it not to those who are skeptical? My husband and I go without in order to provide for our Compassion children. I am sad to hear of $250,000 going to Wess. I do not begrudge him making that amount of money – if he wants that much go work for a profit organization. You want to work non-profit you should be willing to make less. The rewards are in Heaven. I don’t want any Compassion employees being poor however I feel like I am paying for Wess to live in luxury and that is not my intention, my intention is to save a child from poverty and teach them about Jesus. I would never stop sponsoring our children. However, when they are done the program I may not sponsor more if things are not changed.

  43. Dec 13, 2010
    at 3:19 pm

    I just reread Wess’ answer. The question is not so much what Wess does with his salary, but whether you agree with the board’s decision to make this salary structure.

    I can see what Wess is saying. Compassion is an organization that has as one of their earmarks excellence. I can attest to that personally. They are very frugile, but at the same time, they really employ the best. For instance when the letters go to the country office, they will use the best carrier to get these letters there, even though it costs more expensive. Because your letters are very important. They don’t want to loose any of these letters. Since I helped out with the letters in Bolivia, I can also attest to the fact that every letter is processed with the greatest amount of care for each individual letter.

    Thus Compassion wants to really have a high standard of excellence. This also goes into finding the right employees. They want the best accountants, managers, IT specialists, etc…. So, in order to attract these types of people to work for them and to not leave, they need to give somewhat of a competitive salary. Also, remember that when an employee leaves, it costs a lot of money to find another one. So, they got to find well qualitified people to work there. So, this is the issue to be discussed I think. I’m sure that this has been thought through a lot…. and also talked about a lot.

    It’s not that big of an issue to me, because I have seen the effect of the sponsorship in the field and I’m happy with it. This same standard of excellence is also found in the Compassion projects. And this standard is also the standard that allows such high level of integrity.

    Also, you’ll have to look at the total amount of money that comes into Compassion. Last year’s expenses was $471,767,317. So, less than .05% goes to Wess’ salary. So, about 2 pennies of each sponsorship goes to Wess. That’s not a lot…. And then of those 2 pennies, he gives most of it away.

    Anyways, you probably want to look at the whole package when you support anything. I.e. efficiency in how they work, the message, the result, etc….

    Also, remember that the financial part is of the sponsorship, the least important part. The more important parts are to pray and to write the letters to the children faithfully.

    Blessings,

    Kees

  44. Brian
    Dec 23, 2010
    at 11:13 am

    How many of you have the responsibility of overseeing an organization of this size and complexity? Would you do it for less? Not “they should do it for less”. Would YOU do it for less? Have you ever told your employer you were making to much and they should pay you less? For those who feel they would do it for less – why aren’t you? I’m sure there are many organizations who would be happy to hire someone to run their organization for a smaller salary. Drop them a line.

    We have no way of knowing what part of his salary he keeps for himself or what he gives back to the organization. If he gives back 1/2 or 2/3 of his salary, would you still say he still overpaid? I find it interesting people know what he should make without actually knowing anything about what his job entails.

    Who among us has been to Wess’ house, seen what car he drives, or know how he spends his money? There are lots of assumptions about how he lives, but not a lot of facts. The bottom line is this: it isn’t how much we make, but what we do with it. One day we will all stand before God and account for our actions. Wess will have to do the same. Are you so confident in your actions as to judge another without ever really knowing the truth about them?

  45. James Heil
    Feb 19, 2011
    at 5:27 pm

    I’m not sure what he makes. I’m finding it disappointing to find out how much the CEOs of charities make. I really want to give to a third world development agency but can’t in good conscious do it knowing how much the executives feel they are entitled to. I’ve had 28 sponsor children at my high point making less than $25,000 a year. I’m probably not going to go this route again unless these charities start behaving better. There is no justification. It’s just greed.

  46. James Heil
    Feb 19, 2011
    at 7:05 pm

    I was researching third world development charities because I wanted to sponsor more children and what I have found out about them all has been very disappointing. Had I found out that Wes was making less than $100,000 a year and the charity well run, I would have sponsored 5 children on Monday morning and posted the Compassion link on all of my websites. Has anyone on this forum actually ever traveled to a third world country? Maybe you should all get a little perspective on how much money we really need to live.

    http://www.globalrichlist.com

    I am still searching for a charity that operates on higher values than entitlement and market value. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

  47. heidi
    Feb 20, 2011
    at 7:29 pm

    Mr. Weiss,

    how much of that salary that you don’t get to decide on has gone back to charities?? you very much COULD work for free.. many do, it’s called volunteering, and you could donate YOUR entire salary for REALLY seeing to it that the children get food more than ONCE a year and ones aren’t ‘charged’ $$$$ to talk to them (money that never makes it to the children, by the way).. some of those families deserve YOUR salary for the work THEY have done having to lie for this organization that began with different heart than it has now..
    may Yahwerh rebuke you all!
    and you all have to live waiting on crumbs like many of these children you have ‘used’ to buy new suits for SELF with.
    you fancy words will never cover you sins in the eyes of Yahweh OUR creator and LORD. It’s whitewash on shallow graves.
    amen.

    • Feb 20, 2011
      at 9:10 pm

      Well said. Turning poor children into products to get rich off of is evil. I’m not buying through Compassion Canada.

    • Feb 21, 2011
      at 1:09 am

      Heidi,

      I’m a little troubled by this reply. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know how much Wess really gives back and this is something between him and his wife and the Lord. He explained that he and his wife have decided what is enough and that this is modest and that anything beyond this amount he gives to various causes. We are stewards of the money that God entrusts us with. Part of the stewardship is taking care of our families. I Timothy 5 says that if we don’t take care of our immediate families, we are worse than infidels. So, I would not say that Wess has to give everything right back to Compassion. Maybe if you’re going to discuss this, maybe we should discuss whether the system of paying anyone, who works for Compassion is a good system. That’s where the underlying thinking is based on. I personally agree with the system, but I think that is really the underlying issue here.

      What troubles me more with the statement is the last paragraph. You mentioned how that Wess’ fancy words does not cover his sins. You’re actually right. None of our fancy or not so fancy words could actually cover our sins. If Wess gave all that he made and gave it to the poor children. Or if he worked for free, that wouldn’t cover his sins either. As a matter of fact, he or I could do nothing to cover our sins. I could never sponsor enough children to get me to heaven. To go to heaven I must be perfect. The problem is that all of us have sinned. We have all gone astray. Even one lie will keep us out of heaven, See Revelation 21:27. That is why we could never be good enough to go to heaven. Our sins need to not only be covered, they need to be cleansed and wiped away for ever.

      This is what Jesus came to do on the cross. He paid for all of our sins. He was punished instead of us. Then three days later, He rose from the dead and thereby proved that our sins were paid for. Now all He asks us to do is to trust in Him that He paid for sins and all of our sins are not only covered, but they are done away to the point where God said: “Your sins and lawless deeds, I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17)

      So, to summarize, We have sinned. We deserve to spend eternity seperated from God in a place called hell. We can never be good enough to go to heaven. Thus Jesus went to the cross and was punished for our sins. If we simply place our trust in Him, all of our sins are gone and we can be sure that we are going to heaven.

      It is totally by Grace!!!! That’s how Wess has his sins covered and that’s how I have my sins covered and Heidi, if you placed your trust in Christ then that’s how you will have your sins covered.

      I hope that makes sense.

  48. James Heil
    Feb 20, 2011
    at 10:10 pm

    My best friend works in the Philippines as a project manager in a small office. She works 60 hours a week and gets paid $170 a month. She could probably manage circles around Wess. Very smart woman. Why do you constantly compare your wages to North American standards when you are primarily aiding people in poor countries? Do you have any perspective at all?

    Anyways, I’m through adding content to your website.

    You can add content to mine when I get my articles up. One will be titled “Northern Entitlement” and the other “Profitting off the Poor”. I will be sure to mention your name.

    Jim Heil.

    • Feb 21, 2011
      at 5:48 pm

      Hi, James, I know how you feel. Several other people have felt that way. I of course don’t know your friend in the Philippines. I’m sure your friend is wonderful.

      Wess actually has probably more perspective on poverty than the vast majority of us have. He grew up in West Africa in a country that used to be called Ivory Coast. He grew up right among the poor. Several nights, he would cry himself to sleep as a child, because one of his childhood friends died.

      I’d like to throw out something to consider. I look at total effectiveness of the organization too. For instance, if we take the amount that Wess makes and we do some mathematics with the number of sponsorships that there are, I come out that about 1 penny per month goes to Wess. (The majority of that he gives away) Now, let’s take all of the 100 highest paid salaries in Compassion and we come out to not even one dollar of the $38.

      About 80% goes towards programs that directly will benefit the development of that child. This summer, I worked in a lot of the centers of Compassion. Compassion works through the local church. As a matter of fact, they hold a fairly low profile in those centers. The child will come to the local church and there they will be registered and get the meals and the tutoring and everything. Not one person, who works in those centers are employed by Compassion. They are employed by the local church. Compassion doesn’t have to build buildings to train these children in. They don’t have to pay for so much, that you would have to pay for, if you did all of this yourself. In other words, Compassion doesn’t have to pay for a Compassion center to be build. So, the 80% of the money goes to develop those children. This is why it can be so effective. Because the children are the beneficiaries.

      I was at a registration of about 30 children in a student center. I remember telling the mothers that even if all they got was the CIV funds, that that was enough reason to keep the child in the center. CIV stands for Complimentary Interventions. This pays for special things like Bibles, but also any sort of disasters that can hit these children, like the earthquake in Haiti. So, in some ways, it functions kind of like an insurance policy for that child. So, the benefits that these children get is incredible. So, from a pure pragmatic standpoint, I can’t think of a better way to help these children.

      BTW, did you hear that one of the former Compassion children in Uganda just became a member of parliment there? Pretty neat, huh…..

      But I think the best way to see it, is to hear it from a mother of a child. I recorded this video last June. Listen to how she describes the sponsorship. (You have to listen very carefully and you’ll hear the translation)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0hRldheqe0

      Thank you for your concern for the poor. God bless you!!!

      • James Heil
        Feb 22, 2011
        at 1:50 am

        I’m not going to give any money to this charity as much as want to help the children. It’s sick that Christianity is so far gone that you would try to justify these kind of salaries as acceptable.

  49. James Heil
    Feb 21, 2011
    at 8:13 pm

    Claiming that you can’t keep quality qualified people unless you pay them six figures is an insult to the character and abilities of us poor working class people. I cancelled 3 sponsorships with World Vision this morning because of similar justifications made by their charity. I will cancel 2 more when I hear back from Christian Children’s Fund.

    There are better ways of doing things! There are tens of thousands of people running their own charities in this countries. They are called immigrants. They scrub toilets during the day. They serve double doubles at night. They live in small spaces and are very good at saving money. The do so so they can send money home to their poor families in third world countries. They do so without the prestige and entitlement of the CEOs of these charities. Theirs is a real connection and a real sacrifice.

    40% of the population of this planet is living on $2 a day or less. They aren’t hide to find. Next time you are going on a holiday skip Disneyland and go to a third world country instead, make friends, establish your own third world village. Find ways to transfer funds without paying intense transfer fees. It’s better than to let your money sift through hands of corrupt charities profiting off the poor.

    Jim.

  50. James Heil
    Feb 21, 2011
    at 8:27 pm

    A friend of mine, in the Philippines, casually mentioned to me that she would be attending the funeral of one of her classmates who was gunned down in Zamboanga, Mindanao earlier last month. He left behind a widow with three small children.

    Another friend told me of her sister that was living in the slums of Manila with four small children. Her husband works as a cook but doesn’t make enough money to provide for all the children’s needs. The mother had problems through her third pregnancy and they second youngest child, a boy of 3, has yet to start speaking. My friend believes him to be a mute. He will have a difficult life without help.

    These are real stories of real people. You don’t have to go through Compassion to find them. If you have problems with the exorbitant salaries of the people in these charities, I encourage you to not give up on giving. There are people out there that need your help. Pray God leads you to them. He will!

  51. Feb 21, 2011
    at 11:33 pm

    I am not trying to make an appeal on an emotional basis, but do realize that on the other side, there is a child. When you cancel the sponsorship of a child, the children do get very sad when this happens. Even if a sponsor never writes letters, they still love the sponsors. I’ve heard of children spending a whole night in prayer for their sponsor once a month…. The financial aspect is important, but to this child, it’s not about finances, it’s about a relationship. They love their sponsor. Also, when you ask most children what their biggest dream is in life, it’s to meet their sponsor.

    Also, do realize that Compassion is one of the most trusted organizations in the world. You might not agree with everything, but you can be sure that the money goes exactly where they say it will go. As a matter, of fact, the magazine Smart Money is connected with the Wallstreet Journal. They did an investigation of around 680,000 charties. They put these organizations through some sort of grid (must have been automated at that level) and Compassion came out in the top 10 organizations as to which organizations you can trust.

    But I know I can say all kinds of things, but you got to be open to it.

    I do have this type of advise from having lived in a third world country, be very careful who you give your money too. The needs can be tremendous, but at the same time, you can easily think that you’re helping, and in reality just hurting this society. People will use children all the time to get westerners to donate money, which will be used to maybe hurt these children. Just be very careful. Corruption is huge in some of these countries.

    • James Heil
      Feb 22, 2011
      at 7:50 am

      corrupt

    • James Heil
      Feb 22, 2011
      at 7:54 am

      I trust my friends more than I trust a CEO that makes 200,000 a year and then has a whole team of frontliners try to justify it for him.

  52. Joseph Alba
    Feb 22, 2011
    at 7:32 am

    I used to be project director of Salem Student Center (CIPH-844). I am now the pastor of our church.

    Our church and student center is located in the middle of the most densely populated village in our city. We have about 380 registered children in our student center, and 40 mothers with babies in our child survival program. Almost all of our church members and staff are also slum dwellers, and it amazes me to realize that we are able to manage the biggest student center in our city. Credit goes only to God. And He works through the extremely competent staff of Compassion International who constantly and regularly gives us high quality training in Child Development, Financial Systems, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation, Budgeting, and also regularly conducts stringent annual Audits where each and every item of expense is examined to make sure that the children get the maximum benefit and the program meets the intended age-relevant objectives for the children. (These intended objectives are set by the project committee and staff of the center with Compassion’s guidance.)

    The impact to our church from being a ministry partner of Compassion is big. But more than the increase in church attendance, more than the fact that many parents and family members accepted Christ, more than the 20 lifegroup (Bible study cell groups) who meet regularly with leaders who are mostly Compassion parents, more than all this… Compassion partnership allows us to train the child in the way he or she should go today, so that tomorrow, he or she would change the world in Jesus’ Name.

    I want to share a father’s testimony in our church. Three years ago, there was a flash flood caused by a sudden storm surge which swept to sea several houses of our Compassion families. One father testified that he fell down on his knees and prayed, “God, you took away everything I worked for all my life. All of it is now in the sea. But I put my trust in you.” He added, “But because of Compassion, I got help in rebuilding my home. It is still by the seashore, but instead of bamboo stilts, my house now stands on cemented footing and we are less afraid when there is a storm.”

    The Compassion staff are worth every penny they receive. And why question or limit the way God our father blesses? Is it not said that We are blessed to be a blessing?

    Lastly, I’d like to share what one of the student center staff shared during our regular monday devotion time. She said that her lesson’s theme for the week for the 16 and above age group was on God’s love and forgiveness. One of the boys shared that in his home, his father beats him up and after the beating gives him twenty pesos and tells him that’s because he loves him. He said, I think it is in the student center that I first felt how it feels to be loved and accepted.

  53. Jim
    Feb 22, 2011
    at 10:51 am

    It upset me quite a bit to give up my sponsor kids. I wish charities would just restructure their employee salaries so they would be beyond reproach and instill donor confidence. A lot of us would really like to help.

    • Feb 22, 2011
      at 6:31 pm

      Giving up your sponsored kids because you cannot see the immense good that Compassion is doing, blinded as you are by our leaders’ compensation may have been upsetting to you. I guarantee that being dumped by their sponsor was a world of hurt greater for those kids.

      God loves a cheerful giver. I hope you find, or have found, a charitable ministry that meets your expectations. But while you’re researching them, check to see how much money they take from the government (hint: Compassion takes none. Zip.).

  54. James Heil
    Feb 22, 2011
    at 8:52 pm

    I will find ways of giving. The poor aren’t hard to find.

    So as far as your judgments about me are concerned: I’ve worked minimum wage jobs most of my adult life. AT one point (almost 3 years) I was working 60 – 100 hours a week at $7 an hour and giving half of my income to charity. The rest went to pay off debt from a bad business deal I got involved in. There were months on end where I didn’t get to sleep 3 nights a week (working grave yard shifts at my security job) and slinging popcorn during the day at a movie theater and yet still didn’t give up my sponsor children. When I came through this difficult time in my life, I scrimped and saved so I could support 28 sponsor children making less than $11 an hour at one job and $7 an hour at another. When work got slow and my hours cut, I slowly crept back into debt so I wouldn’t have to give up my sponsor kids. When my line of credit was finally maxed out I finally had to cut back to 12 and when I lost my job a few months later I went down to 4.

    I spent most of my early 20′s suffering from mental health problems. I panhandled, I picked bottles. I spent four years on outpatient trying to get my head right. All of my friends were either from the street or from the hospital. I promised God if I He ever pulled me out of the gutter I would live differently than others. And I did.

    I became a Quaker 6 years ago. I couldn’t handle the excess in the church I grew up in. I managed to find meaningful employment and go back to school and for the last four years I have been trying to move towards balance. I am guilty of going to extremes. I run too and from work everyday. Over 100kms a week even in -30 weather. I eat the food my grocery store throws out every night. I haven’t paid for groceries in a couple of months. I am almost 40 and I still live in my parents basement.

    SO I went looking for ways to give. I can live on next to nothing. I can work seven days a week and usually do (two jobs). I went looking for something that was more on par with who I am and how much I would sacrifice. I care a lot for the poor. It is the only reason I have for living.

    I am sorry for not understanding your world. I don’t want to. But if you want to know where I am coming from there it is. I can’t imagine ever having an income of 200,000+ per year. I can’t think of any valid reason to justify it. I CAN and HAVE gone to extremes for the poor and I’ve done it for $7 an hour.

    I am seriously thinking of starting my own charity. I wasn’t expecting every charity out there to raise the bar. I was just very disappointed that I couldn’t find ONE. I am genuinely sorry that I have expressed my high ideals here. I was just so sad that I couldn’t find anything to get involved in that I really connected with.

    I don’t connect with a world that pays people $200,000 a year to serve people who make less than $2 a day. I don’t connect with a fan club that tries to justify it.

    Jim.

  55. James Heil
    Feb 22, 2011
    at 9:34 pm

    I grew up in a typical Evangelical church. I know how much people are stroked for presentation. I also know how much presentation sells in the church. Both the success of the charity and Wess’s position in it are evidence that he excels at that part of the game. But the way he lives is the truth of his character and the wage he accepts (expects? demands?) is a serious question mark on that character. You guys might know him (like him, love him, whatever) and don’t question that, but for poor working classing people like me (and most people I know) it is seriously suspect. And that is the reality of it. Most of us won’t give to a charity if we know the CEO is making the kind of salary he does. It doesn’t inspire us nor does it instill trust in us.

  56. Joseph Alba
    Feb 23, 2011
    at 9:52 am

    Dear James,

    I appreciate your honesty. I’d like to share with you one of my key realizations in life, in my relationship with God, and in my work with the poor.

    I can never do God a favor.

    I may try with all my strength, with all my intelligence, and even go through as much pain, but I can never add to His glory. He is God. I was not there when He created light, the universe, and life. He does not need anybody’s help.

    But I realize, through the Bible, that He calls us to servanthood, friendship, and even son-ship. The best I can do is to accept this privilege.

    Following Jesus and taking up my own cross is not giving God a favor, but a privilege to be chosen to be among those who eventually trust, understand, and declare His wonderful will in my life, and in the lives of people I serve.

    You mentioned everything you did, all the sacrifices you went through, but I felt like you felt obligated or you wanted to do God a favor.

    Probably, if you make a small shift in your thinking, and begin first with God’s love – that He has given you the privilege of being able to sacrifice – to be a blessing to others, to bring the joy that He intends for somebody’s life as well as yours, then, you will begin to see that carrying your cross is not a burden but a joy.

    Then, probably, you will begin to understand why God blesses you to be a blessing to others.

    First, just stop and try. Ask God what His will is for your life. Trust that His will is way beyond your expectations. Have faith, and move with strength in the Holy Spirit.

    This is not mystical stuff. It is plainly seen. You will experience it, once you realize you are so small and so petty to do God any favors; and you begin to just flow with His will. I will pray for you so that you may see His joy in choosing you to be a blessing to others.

    Love,

    Joseph

  57. Jim
    Feb 23, 2011
    at 11:18 am

    huh? I am a Christian. I don’t believe in obligation. I have a real relationship with Christ and He lives through me.

  58. Feb 23, 2011
    at 5:16 pm

    James, I appreciate you opening up to us about this. I’ve been in many ways without employment myself for the last several years. Yes, I’ve had some small business dealings, but definitely not to pay for the sponsorships that I have. God has always provided. I’ve spend some time in the Compassion offices, not that much in the USA though. What I can tell you is that they have the highest quality of personel around. I’m totally amazed at how skilled each person working there is. It’s not easy to get a job working at Compassion. In order to get that level of excellence, they won’t find people that work very inexpensively. Now with their structure, the President makes more than the vice president and so on. I know for instance, they have an IT department of about 100 people. In order to give the children the best service. If the money is there, the cheapest thing isn’t necessarily the cheapest in the long run.
    You might have heard of the saying: “The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.” One of the reasons for this, I believe is that the rich can get things at a substantially more economic way. They can buy the car, that in the long run will give them the most bang for the buck so to speak. Or another illustration. There is a sale on bread. The first loaf is $2, the second is half price. The rich would be able to buy the second loaf at half price, where as the poor person might not be able to purchase the second loaf. Thus the poor person ends up buying more expensively. Sam Walton of Walmart became extremely rich on this principle.
    Anyways, I believe it’s the same with hiring employees. They can probably hire employees at a lower payscale, but would they get the best ones, who can do the job on the most economic scale? We’re trying to help the children. And trust me, I’ve been to the centers. I know a lot of the people that work there. Compassion is there to develop these children.
    So, the real question, you might need to ask yourself is whether you agree with that system of hiring the best most excellent personel? I personally think that it is the most economic way and thus the best stewardship way of going about it.
    Now as far as what Wess does with his money. Well, first of all that’s his business before God….. I find it extremely humble for him to even discuss this here in front of us. Compassion is obviously transparent, otherwise they wouldn’t even have posted this question on the website to start of with.
    I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with making a lot of money, if you can. As a matter of fact, if you can, but don’t then I have problems with that. But then it’s between God and that individual as to how much he gives away. Now, Wess does give the majority of it away. And if you did know Wess personally, you’d have no problems. You could see why God entrusted him with that salary. He does use it for the poor. But if he didn’t, that’s really his responsibility.
    When I give to Compassion, what I’m concerned about is more whether this money is used in the most efficient way to help the children that I sponsor to the highest degree and I’ve got no questions about that.

  59. Joseph Alba
    Feb 23, 2011
    at 10:44 pm

    Amen! Jim. Now, that this is established in you. The next step is to be courageous.

    Josh 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

    This is another key realization I have in my Christian walk. I have to be brave enough to receive God’s blessions. (Remember the 10 spies who saw the blessings of the promised land but were too terrified to claim it .)

    Jim, I would like to ask your permission if I could print your testimony – regarding how you struggled to try to keep supporting the 28 children even to the point of falling in debt – and post it in our church bulletin. It will help our student children understand the love of their sponsors, that in most cases, it is sacrificial love.

    Blessings,

    Joseph

  60. Jim
    Feb 24, 2011
    at 10:08 am

    You can print my testimony if promise to edit out all of my errors and include my website quakers.org.

    • Feb 24, 2011
      at 2:06 pm

      In Bolivia, some of Compassions biggest centers are run by Quaker churches. :-) BO181 is an example. It’s the biggest center of Bolivia. There are over 800 children in there and also a CSP (Child Survival Program), which helps mothers and their babies, from pregnancy up till 3 years old or so. It’s also the highest one in Bolivia. 14,200 feet… Difficult to breathe there, if you’re not used to it.

      • Jim
        Feb 24, 2011
        at 5:08 pm

        There are a lot of Gurneyite Quakers in Bolivia. Glad to see they are helping out.

  61. Jim
    Feb 24, 2011
    at 10:10 am

    I’m not going to argue with anyone here about the effectiveness of Compassion anymore. I really don’t know. With my own life I am trying to do something different and feel like there are probably better ways (for me) to get my money where it is needed.

    Thanks for the conversation.
    Jim.

    • Feb 24, 2011
      at 2:12 pm

      Just be very careful in the developing world. It’s sad to know, but there are a lot of schemes to try to get money from Western people and they don’t mind using children at all. I’ve heard of children being forced to beg, only for that money to go to the guardian, so that they can drink more alcohol. If the child doesn’t bring in enough money, they get beaten….

      This is why it is so important in some of these countries, not to take anything for granted when we see it. It’s so easy to interpret things with our “western” eyes and come to the wrong conclusion, because we don’t know what is really going on. That’s why I’m so thankful that Compassion uses the local people in each country. They have a heart for the people and they know the culture.

      • Feb 24, 2011
        at 5:06 pm

        I’m just going to sponsor my friend’s 3 nephews and one niece. She’s a pretty upright person and I will be visiting the family next February to see things for myself. I’m also looking at Childcare Canada. Their CEO in the States makes 77,000 a year and 96%+ of donor funds goes towards the projects. I think I am a little more comfortable with this. My online Quaker ministry is on pace to get 250,000 hits this year. Next year I will actually be putting some time into it and I need a charity to redirect people to. So I hope I will find a good fit by then.

  62. Joseph Alba
    Feb 25, 2011
    at 11:42 pm

    Hello Jim, I’d like to ask your permission if I can post this on the church bulletin:

    I’ve worked minimum wage jobs most of my adult life. AT one point (almost 3 years) I was working 60 – 100 hours a week at $7 an hour and giving half of my income to charity. The rest went to pay off debt from a bad business deal I got involved in. There were months on end where I didn’t get to sleep 3 nights a week (working grave yard shifts at my security job) and slinging popcorn during the day at a movie theater and yet still didn’t give up my sponsor children. When I came through this difficult time in my life, I scrimped and saved so I could support 28 sponsor children making less than $11 an hour at one job and $7 an hour at another. When work got slow and my hours cut, I slowly crept back into debt so I wouldn’t have to give up my sponsor kids. When my line of credit was finally maxed out I finally had to cut back to 12 and when I lost my job a few months later I went down to 4.
    - Jim (quakers.org)

    Also, in behalf of the student center of our church, I would like to say thank you so much for your love.

    Blessings,

    Joseph

    • James Heil
      Feb 26, 2011
      at 11:25 pm

      Yes, you could totally post it. Thanks!

    • Ken D
      Jan 17, 2012
      at 7:04 pm

      Im a donor, my wife and I sponsor several kids via compassion. I Read through this post and noticed Jim and his story.
      I cannot disagree more with Jim and i would most certainly not put this in a church bulitin Joseph. Going in to debt to sponsor children?(you might as well rob a bank from a biblical stand point) Do you know what the bible says about debt? Sure i could take out a line of credit for a half mil’ and give it away, but would that be what jesus would want? Absolutely not.
      You cant take one aspect of the bible and run with it, while ignoring the rest of what it says. To do so if the foundation of most modern day cults. Having said that, To live a sacrificial lifestyle for charity would is awesome, just dont violate the bibles teachings to do it.

      • Jan 17, 2012
        at 11:21 pm

        Well, there is a little difference. He didn’t say that he went into debt to sponsor his children, but he went into debt to continue his sponsorships of his children. There is a difference there. The children and the sponsors can have a very close relationship with each other. Some of my children call me “daddy.” I would do anything, as long as it it moral, ethical, and legal to continue my relationship with these children. They would be devastated if I dropped them. The children are hurt many times if the sponsor cancels. (I know I worked in the centers and I’ve seen the reaction, when a sponsor cancels) Even the sponsors that never write, many of the children are sad when they loose that sponsor. (Though I do know of one girl, who was in that situation and was actually glad, because now, she could maybe get a sponsor, who would write and she did get a sponsor, who writes a lot) But I do feel that I have to point this out. It’s not the same as going into debt to buy a big screen television. Because the sponsorship isn’t really about the money, it’s about the relationship. And that’s how the child looks at it.

        • Oct 21, 2012
          at 4:14 pm

          Thanks Kees. Nice to know somebody understands.

  63. Robert
    Aug 28, 2011
    at 7:51 pm

    ROFL (if it wasn’t so sickening!) Poor Wesley, he doesn’t decide how much he gets paid, the board does. Aw, how sad. Oh, and he has bills to pay also, I just hope he can fulfill his financial obligations with a measly $267,000 salary. After all he has kids to put through college :( How charitable that you keep your salary inflated so that your underlings will receive their fair share.

    What a smarky retort, Wesley. Shame on you, period! That salary is exorbitant despite your claim that you give it away (why take it in the first place then?). Of course you give some back, how else would you get that tax break on a 1/4 of a Mil +.

    I really can’t believe people hand their money over to people/organizations like this, but it is an unfortunate fact. This guy is so out of touch with the average middle class that supports his high-rolling life style that he actually believe his own bs.

    btw – working for Compassion for nothing would be termed, “Volunteering”, likely a foreign concept to you.

    • Aug 29, 2011
      at 8:46 am

      Yes, it is disgusting. It makes me sad, really. I would love to give to a charity that doesn’t operate in such a sickening fashion. There aren’t many out there. I have decided to give to Chalice even though I am not Catholic and disagree with many of the teaching of Catholicisms. They seem to operate on higher principles. Shame on you, Compassion.

    • Aug 29, 2011
      at 1:25 pm

      Robert, we should totally exchange emails. We ‘real’ Christians need to stick together.

  64. [...] referred me to their blog where their CEO responds to a question about his high salary.  You can read it for yourself on their site, but this is what stood out to me: There are some decisions that I don’t make around here, [...]

  65. Michael Lyman
    Mar 15, 2012
    at 6:24 pm

    So how much do you keep and how much do you give away, specifically, since you brought it up.

    • Mar 15, 2012
      at 10:19 pm

      I’m not Wess obviously, but if Wess were to answer that, then there would be other questions. I don’t really think that it really matters though. Look at Compassion as to what they do with the money. You can look through their financial statements, which are publicly available. Then the question becomes if they are doing with the money what they say, that they are doing with the money. And I’ve worked in the centers myself. I’ve seen the results and yes, they are doing with the money what they say they are doing. What Wess makes is really not that important to me. It’s like focusing on a little dot on a big white sheet of paper. You might be missing the paper!!! Then to go put the dot under the microscope…… You can take that energy and probably turn it around and sponsor a child with that and make a huge difference in the life of a child. (That is if you pray for the child and write them encouraging letters from time to time) I know Wess has a tremendous heart for the children and he lives his life to help these children. I have always found it to be more fruitful to look at my own life and see if there is a way that I can help children more than looking at someone else’s life and jumping to conclusions.

  66. Mar 25, 2012
    at 9:09 pm

    I’ve done that. I’ve stopped focusing on Wess’s salary and researched and found two other organizations that are doing the same kind of work without the entitlement. I’ve recently visited projects for both organizations and sponsored two more children as a result.

  67. Oct 15, 2012
    at 1:43 pm

    As a Christian minister for 46 years and a Compassion supporter for over 40 years I have never quibbled about salaries in Christian organizations. As Christians we should pay the Lord’s servants according to the responsibilities of the worker. The CEO’s salary appears modestly appropriate to the heavy load he carries. Consider what he could earn in the world for the same work load. He would certainly be given much more. “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” -Jesus
    God bless him for his sacrifice to work in a Christian organization!
    Gordon Rumford

    • Oct 21, 2012
      at 3:47 pm

      I grew up in an Evangelical church. I am now a Quaker. I don’t think it’s wrong to say ‘we can do a lot better’.

  68. Angela
    Oct 22, 2012
    at 7:41 am

    It’s been over two years since I initially read and left a response on this board, but it looks like the debate is still going strong. We all have our different opinions, but one thing I noticed as I was reading through the posts here: it seems there is a lot of emotion behind all of these opinions. Emotions can be a good thing. They can drive us and motivate us toward a positive end (or a negative one if we let them). I know – I’m a very passionate (and generally emotional) person when it come to things that are important to me. That being said, we do ourselves no favors to let our emotions “think” for us, especially when it comes to Biblical issues. We MUST NOT let our emotions blind us to what Scripture says.

    That being said, I think there is solid scriptural basis for paying well those who are in ministry. Looking at anything but Scripture will lead us astray. Listening to our emotions will lead us astray. Listening to the wisdom of man will lead us astray.

    I see two things in the Bible that deal with the issues we are discussing here: 1. We are to help the poor. Period. When we give to the poor, we give to Jesus. When we ignore the poor, we ignore Jesus. (Matt 25:35-40)

    2. We are to pay well those who are ministry. Notice that these two things are never addressed together in Scripture. They are separate issues. Emotionally, we want to tie them together. And it makes sense – it’s hard to watch what is happening in a land of wealth knowing what people are suffering in third world countries. But they are separate issues and should be addressed separately. It is absolutely biblical to pay ministers well. While there are examples in the NT, I think the commands given regarding the Levites paint the most vivid picture here. I will repost what I did above:

    “…ALL the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion and regular share. . . This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. . .I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel. . .I give you all the FINEST olive oil and all the FINEST new wine and grain they give the Lord as the firstfruits of their harvest.. . .” (emphasis mine)

    For those debating this issue, I would be interested in trying to understand why the Levites would be allowed an excellent salary, but our modern day ministers are not. I see nothing unbiblical about giving them what is due them. I think our emotions are getting in the way of seeing/hearing what is directly provided in the Word of God.

    I know some of us will continue to disagree, which is OK as long as we are all giving as God leads us. But, I would hate for someone to stumble on this board and automatically think it is horrible that we are giving such a salary to those who minister as an emotional response rather than seeing all sides of the issue. My only plea is for each to look at Scripture and then give as God leads. If you are not led to give to Compassion, then don’t, but please don’t let emotion lead you one way or another. Let God speak to you through his Word!

  69. Darren Court
    Oct 25, 2012
    at 6:48 am

    I feel greatly saddened that Christian’s have allowed worldly thinking into such issues. I read of three arguments to justify Wess’ salary….
    1) He’s only paid a comparable salary
    2) Need to pay high salaries to attract high calibre people (chief exec therefore has to be high)
    3) Wess’ gives most of his money back to compassion.

    To my mind each of these arguments are individually weak but intention to pull together to form a stronger one. I don’t think that works….

    1) Comparisons between Compassion and “other organisations” are simply wrong and for two reasons..
    1) Because the other organisations most often compared are businesses that don’t ask for donations, they sell things. Selling product and services is key to their success and is absent in charity work. If comparing to non-Christian charities we have to ask the motive of their leaders and often find they are more money than work orientated. Additionally Christian work (and our lives) is first and foremost about bringing glory to God, which might direct and unavoidable implication means avoiding discrediting God in anyway. High salaries not only deprive the intended recipients but also God of glory (as the world looks on at our standards).
    2) In the bible donations/tithes/offerings were treated very differently to all other fruit. It’s very clear that produce and animals given to God should be viewed with different standards and treated very differently. Why then would we compare the world organisations to Compassion?
    In response to Angela’s who said “I would be interested in trying to understand why the Levites would be allowed an excellent salary, but our modern day ministers are not.” I would say you’re misunderstanding and comparing apples to oranges. In the first place note that the Levites were given produce and animals but not money. It’s not that money didn’t exist either. Yes the priesthood was given the best of produce and I would argue strenuously that ministers should be well provided for on that basis. There is, however, no evidence that the Levites had so much produce and animals that they were wealthy in comparison to the average and that’s what we’re focusing on when we’re seeing chief execs salaries in excess of the president.
    2) Need to pay higher salaries to attract high calibre people. In the first instance I’m not convinced that’s true and Wess’ himself claims to be an example of it. Wess’ is now paid in excess of $300k and says he lives modestly on much less. If that’s true are there not likeminded people with skills like Wess willing to do the Lord’s work for just what they need? Conversely if the people at Compassion will only work for equivalent salaries they can get in the world aren’t their motives and trust misplaced? Perhaps most significantly in saying we have to compete with the world in regards to salaries aren’t we actually saying God can’t or won’t put such work on the hearts of people who are willing to work for just what they need. Lastly consider missionaries, surely there aren’t any of them out there working for less than their corporate counterparts because we wouldn’t have any if there were.
    3) Wess’ gives most of his money away. Whilst I commend Wess for this I wonder if it should have been kept entirely private or in commenting to the press has Wess received his reward (widow’s mite). Either way I find the argument that Wess’ or for that matter any overpaid exec should be paid so highly simply because they’re good at giving away, well frankly abhorrent and irrelevant. In my opinion Wess should have left this part out of the argument. After all there is no requirement for Wess to give away and what he does give away is strictly between him and God. It certainly isn’t any justification for paying so much and it grieves me that Wess or anyone else at Compassion would use it to claim such.
    My beef is not with Wess’ per se because I accept that it’s not his decision. I think he could and should change the culture of Compassion to better reflect giving glory to God (on the issue of salaries) whilst at the same time commending the good works done for the poor.
    What about other salaries at Compassion? I see little comment on other salaries below Wess. I assume there is not a chasm between his and the next one down and therefore would point out that there are probably quite a lot of people in Compassion on very nice salaries…. At least a lot more than they need and probably significantly higher than the average.
    The issue of salary grieves me greatly because as Oscar Shindler said “I could have done so much more” should be a Christian’s driving force. I know that the issue of salaries at Compassion has without doubt to deprived some Christian’s the opportunity to donate to such an organisation. Sadly that is the reality of it and whatever Compassion achieves I would if God will say “you could have done so much more!”

© 2008-2014 Compassion International. All Rights Reserved.
ECFA Charity Navigator BBB