The Iron Tongue of Midnight’s Lisa Hirsh is not the least bit pleased with the slipshod state of extracting data from IRS Form 990s (the form used by nonprofits to file annual financial returns). The most recent transgression that raised her hackles came from an article in the 4/12/14 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune that listed executive compensation figures for 22 opera organizations.
In the original version of the Union-Tribune article, the paper published total compensation figures labeled as base pay (an item that has since been amended) but perhaps unsurprisingly, diving executive compensation isn’t always a terribly straightforward process.
As it stands, the annual orchestra compensation reports here at Adaptistration include multiple paragraphs dedicated exclusively to explaining how executive compensation is reported, how it is compiled, what it may exclude, etc. (the most recent example). Consequently, all of this data is used to arrive at a total compensation figure.
Ideally, it would be nice if all of this info could be condensed into a single sentence sound bite, but then again, when is anything dealing with compensation that simple?
In the end, it pays to favor more text and less flashy imagery if it means helping others understand the multi-layered complexities involved with nonprofit performing arts organization executive compensation. And as Lisa mentioned in her article (thanks for the shout-out Lisa), if the Orchestra 990 Database project reaches its funding goal in the fall, you can look forward to a wealth of data and supporting documentation to help you become a master of the 990 black arts!