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Ranking the Fifteen Top-Paid Non-Profit CEOs

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There is big money in running America’s big non-profits.

Zarin Mehta, chief executive of the New York Philharmonic, is the most highly compensated top executive in the charity and non-profit sector, making $2.6 million through a confluence of bonuses, salary and deferred compensation in 2008.

Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry was No. 2 with a 2008 compensation of nearly $2.5 million, says Newsweek, which released a list of the "15 Highest Paid Charity CEOs," based on data from

Other arts executives on the list include Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, whose salary of nearly $1.1 million puts him at No. 5.

Reynold Levy, CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, is eighth, at $970,707; and Deborah Borda, CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is 11th, at $928,232.

Newsweek notes: “At first glance, Mehta’s $2.6 million compensation in 2008 looks shocking, but his base salary of less than $1 million will surely reassure donors that 2008's generosity is not a yearly occurrence.”

Mehta received a large bonus that can be traced back to deferred compensation after he took leadership of the Philharmonic in 2000. His salary in 2007 was $650,000. Mehta is leaving the job when his contract expires in August 2011.

In July, The New York Times reported that the highest-paid employee at the Philharmonic in 2008 was then-music director Lorin Maazel. His salary of $3.3 million in his final season represented a $500,000 increase over the previous season.

CEO compensation has become a hot-button topic among non-profits. The IRS, which regulates charities at the federal level, continues to prioritize CEO compensation as one of its main areas of focus in uncovering fraudulent charity practices.

According to a recent study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations to the nation’s biggest charities dropped 11 percent last year, a decline that was the worst in the two decades.