Chief's Pay Criticized As Charity Cuts Back

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Food & Friends, a nonprofit organization that provides meals and other nutritional services to homebound HIV-AIDS and cancer patients across the Washington region, is scaling back its services, citing declining donations and rising fuel and food costs.

The cuts come as the District-based charity is facing criticism from some donors, AIDS activists and nonprofit group watchdogs, who say the compensation awarded to the group's longtime chief is too high.

Food & Friends paid Executive Director Craig M. Shniderman $357,447 in salary and benefits last year, and Shniderman, 60, said his salary has increased 4 percent this year. "Food & Friends compensates all of the staff appropriately, and that compensation is not, shall we say, fluctuated according to the momentary circumstances," he said.

There is no legal limit to how much tax-exempt charities can pay their executives, but two charity experts who reviewed Food & Friends' federal filings at the request of The Washington Post said they believed Shniderman's compensation to be unusually high relative to the organization's size.

"It appears excessive in relation to other nonprofits in related fields," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Shniderman's pay is substantially higher than the top salaries at many comparable area charities and has risen steadily from $145,000 in 1998, according to federal tax filings reviewed by The Post.

Food & Friends' board of directors, to whom Shniderman reports, defended his compensation, citing his decades of experience in social services and his role as chief fundraiser and manager of the nonprofit group, which has an $8 million annual budget and a staff of 58.

"We are lucky to have him, and we should pay him at the top of the range in order to incentivize him and retain him. And that's what we've done, and we think it's completely justified," said Christopher Wolf, a past president and current member of the charity's executive committee.

Last year, Shniderman received a salary of $270,290, as well as $31,318 in various insurances and a pension plan and $55,839 in deferred compensation. He said he has not considered taking a pay cut.

Many similar area groups pay their executives less, according to those organizations' most recent federal tax filings. At Capital Area Food Bank, whose $33 million budget is about four times that of Food & Friends, president and chief executive Lynn Brantley received $127,756 in salary and benefits. At Bread for the City, which has a $3.9 million budget, Executive Director George A. Jones received $102,627. And at D.C. Central Kitchen, which has a $6.7 million budget, President Robert Egger received $81,457.

The Whitman-Walker Clinic, a nonprofit group that has a $22 million budget and is the region's largest community-based provider of HIV-AIDS medical services, paid its then-top executive, Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, $169,524.

Shniderman's salary is comparable to those of the top executives at some AIDS and food nonprofit groups in New York and San Francisco. But many of those organizations are larger, and they are in cities with higher costs of living.

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