By James V. D’Ambrosio

Last Thursday and yesterday, as much of the nation and media focused on the precipitous drop in the stock market, an important news item impacting nonprofits was pushed far into the background: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing the creation of a task force to investigate executive and administrator compensation at nonprofits receiving state-taxpayer support.

In a press release posted on the New York Council of Nonprofits’ (NYCON) Web site — a statewide agency supporting New York nonprofits — the Governor was quoted as follows:


“Not-for-profits that provide services to the poor and the needy have a special obligation to the taxpayers that support them. Executives at these not-for-profits should be using the taxpayer dollars they receive to help New Yorkers, not to line their own pockets. This task force will do a top-to-bottom review, not only to audit current compensation levels, but also to make recommendations for future rules to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to serve and support the people of this state, not pay for excessive salaries and compensation.”

Commissioners from the Department of Health, Office of Mental Health, and Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) will serve on the task force, led by the New York State Inspector General Ellen Biben and other officials.

The announcement came in the wake of an August 2 New York Times article depicting malfeasance at one nonprofit in New York City where the directors acted outrageously (read it here: The Governor likely wanted to make a statement that he is looking EVERYWHERE to help close New York’s $9 billion budget deficit, and this article provided him the opportunity. 

Whatever the Governor may or may not be trying to do, this development is the last thing nonprofits need at a time when agencies have been forced to merge, share services, or close altogether.   

I was dismayed the governor chose to target nonprofits. Frankly, his time would be better spent looking into the far more widespread — and outrageous — compensation packages of executives in health care and insurance, two regulated industries where executive compensation reaches well into the millions. Outside of the Times article, how many nonprofit CEO’s do you know that make $1 million? In the New York Metro area, most make between $100 – $200,000, far below private-sector executives. Outside of major urban areas, it is often considerably less.   


NYCON has moved quickly to counter this news by asking nonprofits to share stories about positive impacts they’ve had on people’s lives and the important work they do. Please visit to submit stories, comments and reactions to the Governor’s announcement. NYCON is also creating a web page dedicated to publishing these testimonials that will be shared online and with the Governor’s press office. You can also submit comments directly to the governor’s press office at:

As a communications professional, I recommend a short statement — limited to one page —   describing your agency’s mission and one or two examples demonstrating impact. This will increase the likelihood that your comments will actually be read: today’s social media environment  has flooded people with so many messages that attention spans have been reduced. Be concise. 

Also share your comments on this site to expand their reach. Over the past months I have actively promoted this blog and significantly increased page views and readership.


QUESTION TO READERS:  What is your reaction to this news? If you’re a New York nonprofit, how will you respond?

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