Dollars & Sense

Do These Gay Rights Leaders Deserve So Much (Or So Little) Cash?


Running a gay rights or aid organization is a noble assignment. It’s also a plush gig. In return for being the public face and chief strategist for various activism and outreach organizations, the leaders are rewarded with cash. Handsomely. Just how attractive are these top posts of supposed non-profits?

Well, allow us to show you. In a blistering report, the Washington Blade compiled the compensation for leading gay rights and AIDS organizations. The method: Querying the organizations to voluntarily submit pay information, plus checking with charity watchdog firms Guidestar and Charity Navigator. Some of these pay stubs may surprise you; others not so much.

Does the president of a non-profit really deserve to earn more than 10 teachers combined? You tell us. But keep this in mind: Just because an organization is a charity or non-profit doesn’t mean it can slack. These groups must remain competitive. Without the right talent leading the team, fundraising suffers, which means their ability to do good suffers too. Good people cost money. But how much is too much?

We’d especially love to hear from people who actually donate money to these organizations. Are you comfortable with how much the leaders of the organizations you fund are receiving?

  Organization What It Does Compensation (Salary + Benefits) Annual Budget
Craig Shniderman
Food & Friends “provides meals and nutritional services for homebound people with HIV/AIDS in the Washington, D.C. area” $382,200 $7.9 million
Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign “the nation’s largest LGBT political advocacy group” $338,400 (2009’s salary will be cut 10 percent to $302,200) $41.4 million
Lorri Jean
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center “provides HIV/AIDS-related services as well as a host of social and recreational services for the LGBT community” $327,000 $48.5 million
Neil Giuliano
GLAAD “dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation” $270,000 (2009’s salary will be cut $20,000 to $251,034; Giuliano is stepping down) $7 million
Chuck Wolfe
The Victory Fund “Provides financial and campaign support to gay and lesbian political candidates.” $220,000 $5.2 million
Geoff Kors
Equality California “the statewide group that coordinated the unsuccessful effort to oppose an anti-gay marriage amendment” $171,000 $24.5 million
Donald Blanchon
Whitman-Walker Clinic D.C.’s “largest AIDS service provider for the LGBT community and other city residents in the Washington area” $170,000 (salary) $21.5 million
Mara Keisling
National Center for Transgender Equality “Social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment” $82,321 $454,770
Greg Varnum
National Youth Advocacy Coalition “the leading national social justice and capacity building organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and LGBTQ youth-serving professionals” $62,000 (down from 2007’s $92,240) $600,000
Jon Hoadley
National Stonewall Democrats “a grassroots network connecting LGBT Democratic activists … for social change within our movement and within our party” $59,500 $650,000
Dyana Mason
Equality Virginia “a statewide, non-partisan lobbying, outreach and education organization seeking equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians” $59,000 (her successor will earn $79,000) $700,000

Lead Photo: Flickr/jlgsongs

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  • Qjersey

    Goolander strikes again. He says something stupid and will wet himself over all the attention.

  • Qjersey

    wrong posting, LOL, see michael lucas,

  • russs

    HRC: If his salary is determined by the effectiveness of staff he directs, Solmonese gets paid way too much. They need to get their act together. A good place to start: answer the phone and answer the email. No kiddin’, Joe, don’t ignore us. Give a third of your salary to a new, effective office manager. Many of us who have given up on you might come back.

  • atdleft

    @russs: Yet another reason why I don’t give to HRC. What exactly is Joe Solomonese doing to earn over $300k a year?

  • atdleft

    And btw, how the hell did Craig Shniderman & Lorri Jean convince their respective organizations to give them such obscenely high salaries? I’m not so familiar with Food & Friends, but Lorri Jean was one of the biggest reasons why the No on H8 campaign was EPIC FAIL. Why is she still at the LA Center when the campaign couldn’t even win LA County?

  • Greg Ever says that Joe Solmonese is only paid $30,806 by HRC itself. The bulk of his compensation comes from “affiliates” whatever that is supposed to mean.

  • Movement Guy

    Without addressing a particular leaders effectiveness, as someone who works in the movement, I can’t figure out the reason for this article. It seems designed to spark outrage in the community over what are seen as exorbitant salaries. So far, no one on here or the Blade’s website has address how UNDERPAID some movement leaders are. The simple fact is that the movement needs smart, savvy and effective leaders and operatives. In order to attract and retain those people, they need to be compensated in a reasonable way.

    Anyone who owns or runs a business as large as HRC or the LA Center, I can assure you is receiving much more compensation than Solmonese or Jean.

    As I said, I work in the movement and am very good at what I do. Putting aside the current economic downturn, I am certain I could earn FAR more at either a larger nonprofit or in the private sector. Simply put, while I am happy to earn less to do what I love and what helps my community, if we want to win and protect our rights, I at least expect to paid a reasonable wage.

  • Alec

    I went to school with and know one person on that list, and let me tell you, judging by his efforts during the MI marriage amendment campaign and the very surprising showing in 2006 during the South Dakota campaign, he deserves every penny. In MI the county he was in charge of voted the amendment down, and in SD he was in charge of the statewide campaign and the amendment passed by a miniscule 52%, which I consider a HUGE victory in a state that went for Bush by such a large margin in 2004. In other word, Mr. Hoadley has what it takes to be successful in the areas where it counts.

    But, hard to say without knowing more. You haven’t provided any information about their backgrounds, what their boards have required in terms of experience and education for the positions in question, what comparable leaders of other nonprofits are being paid and cost of living considerations. Nor their work hours, compensation policies for travel expenses, etc.

  • Jordan

    Look at Lorri Jean smiling up there! That $375k salary sure does feel good, doesn’t it girlfriend?! Sure can buy a lot of denial and self-righteous anger at your own community with that money – not to mention a whole host of useless “social” activities!

  • Jordan

    @Movement Guy: Yeah, that’s all well and good except for two things:

    1. You don’t go into the non-profit sector to be the next Bill Gates. People who enter the non-profit job world know that they’re accepting peanuts to do live-altering, personally satisfying work with a community of like-minded people.

    2. We expect people who make such good money to actually DO GOOD. What have these folks done? Routinely been the flag-wavers for the Society of Meek and Gentle Gays and generally avoided any actual work. Maybe if the LA G&L Center didn’t want to charge, say, $500+ to rent a room to a fellow GLBT group for FOUR HOURS of use, and maybe if they didn’t spend every waking hour promoting Leslie Jordan comedy-hour and Margaret Cho socials, I’d be a little more willing to cut them slack. But for being the most money-rich organization in our community, I don’t see them doing much more than providing a few HIV/AIDS and youth services and otherwise just creating a machine for power-hungry queers to get a paycheck.

  • Alec

    @Jordan: I’m curious about your criticism of the LA center. They seem to offer a lot of services, ranging from legal to transgendered economic empowerment. While the activities you describe do seem frivilous, from a budget perspective they might actually make money off of them. Just something to consider. I’m not involved with them in any way, but I do think we should be careful when evaluating their efficacy.

  • Jason

    The salaries for working in non-profits that are over $100k are disgusting. I would hope that the people who go to work at these organization put passion for a cause before a paycheck. Maybe that’s why so many of these organizations are useless. Instead of paying people these outrageous salaries why not look to hire people who are energized by a cause? I know I have taken pay cuts in my career (and I don’t make these salaries) to do work that I believed in. I guarantee you that HRC and GLAAD could find individuals who would do just as good of a job if not better for half the salaries than the current heads are paid.

  • Jordan

    @Alec: I’m not criticizing the work they do for HIV/AIDS patients, or in their youth programs, or any of the other standard services that are part of the bedrock of our community.

    But what I DO criticize is the fact that they generally turn a cold shoulder to any program they don’t start, or have a hand in running. We’re talking about an organization that has four buildings across central LA, and they don’t, for the most part, allow anyone to use them except their own programs. They have no interest in working with the grassroots organizations that have sprung up since Proposition 8, either via money or resources. It’s absurd. This is an organization that has made it’s money, and provided salaries, off the name of LGBT people everywhere. But an LGBT group can’t even use a conference room without paying HUNDREDS of dollars? They won’t even allow us to use copiers, or paper-cutters?! It’s insulting and near criminal.

    Moreover, there’s no democratic representation in their leadership, and no “appeals” for any of their absurd policies. It’s a crowd of little Napoleons running the show around there.

    And Alec, for the record, I’m incredibly careful about evaluating their efficacy. I’ve been on the ground working for equality here in CA, and all I know is that they’re doing nothing of value regarding Proposition 8 beyond the limited scope of VFE. And don’t even get me started on them…

  • BillyBob Thornton

    Actually I was surprised that the salaries weren’t higher. However, some of these organizations are not effective. I wish there was a way, other than not donating, to hold them accountable for subpar performance.

  • LarryPDX

    The real surprise for me was the fact that small organizations dedicate approximately 10% of their annual revenue to pay the salary of the leader.
    Large organizations seem to compensate their chief executive with a salary in-line with that of a CEO (minus the stock options and bonus).
    Considering the responsibility of running a large organization I am fine with compensating the chief executive as such.

  • Movement Guy


    As I said, I’m not speaking to whether or not I think a particular leader earns their keep, though I think that’s important. Many organizations, particularly national ones, are located in major metropolitan areas where the cost of living would be prohibitive for someone who makes less than I do. In fact, my hardly fabulous lifestyle (e.g. no big vacations, no car, no fancy dinners or theater) is even only possible because I have a live-in boyfriend and a rent stabilized apartment. A colleague of mine who only makes slightly less than I do (mid-$50Ks), and also does not spend crazy money on frivolous things, is constantly running out of money, and he lives in a studio apartment, brings his lunch to work most days, and buys his clothes at thrift stores. And that’s with a 45 minute commute every day.

    Maybe we should worry about why Bill Gates has $40 billion while tens of thousands of Americans are having their homes foreclosed on and being laid off, and stop worrying about those of us who are making a living wage.

  • Jordan

    @Movement Guy: So you’re saying that you think $327,000 is a “living wage” for Lorri Jean in Los Angeles? Sorry, no.

  • InExile

    Joe Solmonese of HRC’s salary would be fine if they accomplished anything. HRC could organize our community better to fight for equality but they don’t, they just organize fund raising events.
    When is the march on Washington for equality? Oh, that’s right if we as a community demanded equality and got it, we would not need HRC and those high salaries would be gone!

  • Jason

    It should be noted that Geoff Kors donated $50,000 of his salary to No on 8. I assumed he was paid more because that means he gave nearly a third of his salary to a non tax deductible effort. What did Lorri Jean give? Pennies in comparison.

  • Lee

    How much does Basic Rights Oregon’s Jeana Frazzini make?

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Movement Guy:

    “I at least expect to paid a reasonable wage.”

    And $7350 (per week) is NOT an acceptable wage???

    Sounds like AIG thinking.

    “I’m entitled”.

  • MadProfessah

    I hope that the Blade does a followup on all the Statewide organizations…

    I disagree with ATDLEFT who complained about Lorri Jean’s salary. She is running the largest LGBT organization in THE WORLD, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Yes, that is a lot of government grants to provide services (HIV/AIDS, legal, youth, community education) but relative to its size, I think her salary is not excessive.

    The comments about whether the Center should allow grassroots organizations to use their meeting spaces for free is a good one.
    On the one hand it costs a lot to maintain, clean and protect the meeting spaces they have but I do agree they should have a mechanism by which brand new groups can meet for low-cost or free.
    I do know that during the Prop 8 campaign lots of groups met at the Center’s Village complex almost weekly and there was no charge.

  • Movement Guy

    @Charles J. Mueller:

    Wow. Strawman arguments abound on here. Again, whether or not a particular leader is effective is not the issue. And tying any movement leader’s compensation to AIG thinking is so offensive, I can’t even go there.

    Using your argument, here’s a comparison:

    Lorri Jean’s salary = $7,350/week

    Head of risk management, AIG = $153,846/week.

    So, to your thinking, someone who, while not perfect by any stretch runs an organization that provides vital services for our community and earns $146,496 LESS than one of the people who brought us the current economic disaster, is an appropriate comparison.

    BTW, I earn $1,312 per week after taxes, or less than 1% of what the AIG asshole makes.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Movement Guy:

    At least, get the strawman’s name correctly.

    $7350/week x 52 weeks, if you’d have taken the time to do the math, would come to $382,200., the annual salary Craig Schniderman pulls down, not Lori Jean.

    That’s almost 4% of the annual budget of $7.9 million.

    Even as the sole owner and President of a highly successful business in New York City who pays his employees well above the average wage, even I would have extreme difficulty justifying that kind of an annual salary.

    “And tying any movement leader’s compensation to AIG thinking is so offensive.”

    That was exactly my point, had you read my remark the way it was intended.

    $382,200 per year, to do gay community work, is extremely offensive, to my way of thinking…and just as offensive, if not more so that the salary of the AIG asshole.

  • Movement Guy

    Whoops. While I disagree with your overall position, which seems to be that movement employees should be paid crumbs, I do find Schniderman’s salary highly questionable. I don’t see how the Board of Food & Friends approved that amount.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Movement Guy: You are engaging in classic strawman arguments. You falsely describe the actual argument against your position in favor of an exaggerated argument that no one is making. You follow this with your own arguments refuting the exaggeration. You are not responding to the actual arguments against yours- the question is whether this is reasonable compensation and not whether, as you describe, these people should work for peanuts. Describing working for anything less than $385k as peanuts is hyperbole. There maybe arguments for them making what they make, but your hyperbole does not help your case. The AIG is on point because one could lift your arguments verbatim out of the debate over the executive compensation. They would argue that no one could reasonably live in NYC on a 200k base salary. It is one thing to say that 200k is less than they are used to making, and quite another to call 200k peanuts (they used similar terms as you as well).

  • Priscilla

    here’s one->How much do the guys “make”, who run the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of commerce? They are always taking Luxurious vacations..traveling the globe.. posting their pics with celebs, braggin about fancy dinners, trips to Argentina and other destinations on facebook..what is there Purpose? do they help the community?

  • bigjake75

    Okay, how about these orgs, all of them, getting on Obama’s ass about screwing us on military service. Gates said today that the administration ‘has alot on our plates right now’ and is just to busy to worry about our rights. Good, go fight the wars to secure our freedom…oh wait…not for homos and dykes…but for real americans that don’t like them gays. So f*cking disgusting. Here is a link to the story:

  • Jonathan

    From Kiesling down… yes. From Blanchon up. No.

  • Jonathan

    @InExile: No. It wouldn’t be fine if they accomplished anything. Because regardless of what they accomplish he is paid too much to work at a non-profit — any non-profit.

  • Jonathan

    @InExile: It’s just especially galling that the useless rat pulls down more than 300k *and* his roganization accomplishes nothing.

  • James

    It’s the dirty little secret of a lot of charities just how much their executives make. There was that guy named Aramony who was head of the United Way. And Ted Kennedy’s nephew, Joe Kennedy, gets paid $400,000 a year despite his having trust fund bucks galore, to preen and (in commercials) act like he spends his days making free oil deliveries to poor homeowners. $400,000 a year (and to a guy with a trust fund, no less!) would buy a lot of free oil. A couple of the execs profiled above have suspiciously large salaries relative to the budgets of the charities they run.

  • Jonathan

    @BillyBob Thornton: There is a great way to hold them accountable. Don’t donate to them. I stopped giving to HRC years ago… in part it was when they called for my husband and when I answered they asked if they could speak to his “wife”… but it was also motivated by the fact that they don’t do squat. Big fancy fundraisers so that gay Repub staffers can feel like they are part of the fabulous gay life here in DC…

    Fuck em.

  • George

    EQCA: “the statewide group that coordinated the unsuccessful effort to oppose an anti-gay marriage amendment”

    This is actually an incorrect description of the role EQCA played during the campaign. They were an equal member of a committee.

  • Steve

    I believe that most of the salaries listed, excluding the National Stonewall Democrats and Equality Virginia, are attributable to the sense of entitlement that most people in white collar leadership positions have come to expect, and that most Americans have come to accept. If it’s expensive, then it must be better. I believe that not-for-profit work carries a certain responsibility/connotation of financial sacrifice for the common good of the cause. Who comes to mind with regard to “the gay cause” is Harvey Milk as an effective leader/organizer, and without actually knowing his financial compensation as a community leader and/or politician, I will make an assumption that comparative to the times, it was not very much.

  • petted

    @Movement Guy: The Advocate mentioned at least 2 groups whose leaders for that year were paid less then the average rate for organizations of their size and resources.

    Its also important to consider for some of these groups particularly the ones the operate in large cities of nationally its important to sell the idea to your high level donors that the organization is doing well and part of that is making sure your top officers look good – in short success breeds success though politics is mostly about appearances anyway and fundraising particularly high level fund raising involves a lot of politiking (its a common colloquial expression).

  • Charles J. Mueller

    Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s a– what these people think they are worth.

    I’m done with all these porkers! They can fend for themselves without my hard-earned duckets.

  • petted

    @petted: Not saying that any specific wages are justified just making observations – I don’t usually donate to any group that I haven’t or do not intend to actually volunteer my time to support.

  • Charles J. Mueller


    No disagreement or offense was intended. :-)

    I was just making a general comment about how I have come to feel about most of these top-down organizations who seem not to have any connection with those who support them.

  • Eclipse

    @Jordan: As a point of correction: The rental for a regular room at the Center is $15 per hour for non-profits.

    Shows at the Center bring in revenue, one of the most sure-fire ways to raise money. Very often, the stars in the shows reduce their cut to help provide more money for the Center, most of which feeds and houses the kids in the homeless facilities.

  • Dan

    There is an activist from SF named Michael Petrelis, who has been complaining for years about what he calls “Gay Inc” and AIDS Inc” — the folks who do very well entrenching themselves in paid activist positions. Although Petrelis can sometimes be abrasive and off-putting, he hit the nail right on the head on this issue.

    Some of these salaries are obscene, particularly those doled out by organizations with comparatively small budgets. Obviously people can’t work for nothing, but a quarter of a million dollars for the head of GLAAD? For someone who was previously the mayor of a small town in AZ and was not a media bigwig?

  • Attmay

    I don’t give them one red penny and I never will as long as I live. They called me once and hit me up for money, and I told them that they fucked up the No on 8 campaign royally. The guy on the other end of the line blamed the voters. I called bullshit on that. When you failed to educate the voters, you are as much to blame as they.

    I ended my call by telling them that if they attempted to call again I would report them to the police.

Comments are closed.