Wanna bet that Franklin Graham is the only CEO in the country who had to be forced to take a salary?
Some of the more cynical among you are no doubt leery of the explanation put forth recently by a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association explaining how the group’s board of directors had to force Graham to take money he’d previously eschewed.
In 2009, Graham conceded – after it had been called to his attention by the Charlotte Observer – that his $1.2 million compensation package “looks terrible” with the economy floundering and the organization undergoing double-digit layoffs. In response, he nobly told the board that he would not accept pay for being head of the non-profit BGEA.
That didn’t mean that Graham and the fam would be hanging out at Kmart waiting for a blue light special on tube socks or clipping coupons to save 75 cents on week-old cracklins at the Piggly Wiggly: God’s angriest messenger was still being paid $620,000 annually as head of Samaritan’s Purse, another nonprofit he heads.
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Graham sincerely felt, though – again, after the newspaper pointed it out to him – that his making all of that dough projected a bad image and that “people won’t understand it.”
That’s the problem, Franklin: we do understand.
The Observer noted this week that Graham has resumed accepting a salary, and President Obama and the Democrats could use Graham’s rationale for doing so as a tacit acknowledgment that their economic policies are working. That would indeed be a difficult thing for Graham to fathom, since he has been one of the President’s most vociferous detractors almost from his birth in Kenya or wherever he thinks the president was born.
How else, though, can one explain Graham spokesman Mark DeMoss saying the salary suspension was temporary – “for the time being,” Franklin said at the time – and would end “if or when the economic situation improves significantly”?
The time being lasted until 2011. After Franklin’s one-year moratorium on making moolah off mankind’s misfortunes, the board and Graham figured Obama’s economy had improved enough that it could once again render unto Franklin that which is Franklin’s.
Graham, remarkably, isn’t even the highest paid exec at the do-gooding nonprofit, nor is he the first person whose alleged altruism was compromised by the appearance of avarice. As Jame Michener wrote about missionaries in “Hawaii,” “They came to the islands to do good, and they did right well.”
Put another way, if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, many of the people on it are driving Bentleys.
As a former CEO of two for-profit businesses that proved to be, alas, non-profit-making, I can’t relate to a board of directors that would demand that I take a salary I didn’t want. I had to fight for every nickel from my boards – which was really humbling since I was the only member on them.
That’s why it would’ve been enlightening to be inside a meeting of the BGEA board – “the majority of whom are not staff members or their relatives,” its website boasts – when Franklin demurred, but the board demanded, that he take the dinero. One can imagine the board members chasing Franklin down the deeply carpeted halls, trying to thrust a bag of money into his unaccepting hands.
Franklin: My dear board members – hey sis, son, cuz – thank you, but I must decline your offer. I already make more than any other non-profit CEO in the country, so accepting more just wouldn’t seem cricket.
Board: But Franklin, you must take this money. Otherwise, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will be a laughingstock at the annual Criminally Overpaid Non-profit Executive Directors ball.
Just make the check out to C.O.N.N.E.D., for short.