CEOs at top charities earn top dollar

Many of the biggest charitable organizations in Ontario pay their top executives more than $250,000 a year, according to data compiled by CBC News.

Ontario's Sunshine List reveals salaries at non-profit agencies that get provincial government funding

Piers Handling, Director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, tops the list with an annual salary of $352,260. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Many of the biggest charitable organizations headquartered in Ontario pay their top executives more than $250,000 a year, according to data compiled by CBC News. 

Charitable agencies that receive more than $1 million in annual funding from the Ontario government are required to disclose top salaries on the province's Sunshine List of public-sector earnings.

This reveals the salaries paid by some of Canada's most well-known charities, including the Canadian Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

The top-paid official at the Governing Council of the Salvation Army was paid $303,956 last year. The agency operates on an annual budget of $218 million. (CBC)

Research by CBC News found 20 senior executives earning more than $250,000 at registered charities based in Ontario. 

Topping the list is Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, earning $352,260 in 2016. 

Top salaries at charities on Ontario Sunshine List 2016:

  • Piers Handling, $352,260, Toronto International Film Festival Inc., Director & CEO.
  • George Habib, $342,831, Ontario Lung Association, President & CEO.
  • John Rafferty, $326,300, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, President & CEO.
  • David Samuel Hillier, $322,877, Shepherd Village (seniors' care), President & CEO.
  • Conrad Sauve, $321,299, The Canadian Red Cross, President & CEO.
  • Barry Bisson, $316,731, Shad Valley International (education), President.
  • Medhat Mahdy, $305,303, YMCA of Greater Toronto, President & CEO.
  • Paul Goodyear, $303,956, The Governing Council of the Salvation Army, Territorial financial secretary. 
  • Anthony Sargent, $299,999, Luminato (Toronto Festival of Arts), CEO.
  • Myroslav Klymkiw, $297,440, Canadian Film Centre, CEO.
  • Michele Maheux, $284,279, Toronto International Film Festival, Executive director and chief operating officer.
  • Kevin Frey, $268,836, Right To Play International, CEO.
  • Julia Dumanian, $268,749, Canadian Hearing Society, President & CEO.
  • Catherine Macdonald, $264,953, Ontario Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, CEO.
  • Susanne Gillespie, $264,300, Pathways to Education Canada, President & CEO.
  • Sharon Broughton, $258,411, Kids Help Phone, President & CEO.
  • Geoff Cape, $255,329, Evergreen (urban sustainability), CEO.
  • Deborah Sevenpifer, $253,784, YMCA of Greater Toronto, Chief financial officer.
  • Andria Spindel, $252,709, March of Dimes Canada, President & CEO.

The salaries appear to be proportionate to the size of these organizations, according to the head of an agency that analyzes the value-for-money impact of Canadian non-profits.

Large operating budgets to manage

"These are large charities with large operating budgets and large staff requiring management," said Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence.

The largest charities on the list, and their annual operating budgets are:

  • Canadian Red Cross: $313 million.
  • Salvation Army: $218 million.
  • YMCA of Greater Toronto: $213 million.

The two smallest charities on the list are arts-related. The Toronto Festival of Arts Culture and Creativity (Luminato) has an $11-million annual operating budget and 23 full-time staff, while the Canadian Film Centre has a budget of $11.2 million and 42 full-time staff.

Bahen and her staff at Charity Intelligence analyzed the salary data against the organizations' budgets. She said the salaries are generally "in line with the size of the organization and the size of the staff that requires management."

Rather than looking solely at salaries to determine whether a charity deserves support, Bahen said donors should consider such things as financial transparency, accountability and administrative efficiency.

"We're not seeing excessive compensation" at charities in Canada, said Bahen. "Some Canadian donors believe that people who work for charities should not receive any salaries. That's a little unrealistic in 2017."

This list of top salaries from the Ontario Sunshine List 2016 focuses on donor-funded registered charities that operate outside the provincial public sector. That excludes some organizations (such as universities, hospitals and museums) that are themselves registered charities but operate with a specific mandate from the provincial government.

Some other registered charities based in Ontario may pay their top executives comparable or even larger salaries, but the pay is not disclosed on the Sunshine List because the agencies do not receive provincial government funding.   

The Canada Revenue Agency requires all registered charities to disclose the range of salaries paid to their staff, but not the specific amounts. That data can be found on the CRA website