The Nonprofit 1 Percent

Even the do-gooders can seem blind to their own excess

The Nonprofit 1 Percent
Scott Schafer; ImageSource / Corbis

When music therapist Debbie Moran was notified she was being laid off from her job with the Jewish Guild for the Blind, her first concern was not the money.

"Me being let go is nothing," she wrote in an e-mail. "The salary was minuscule."

Moran's final paycheck was $165.07 for two weeks, and while she noted "it's sometimes a little more," the gig had no benefits and brought in less than $5,000 a year. It was but one of several jobs Moran hustled up to eke out a living as a musician, therapist, and teacher.

Moran had been at the Guild for more than 20 years and worked with mostly elderly blind people, forming various choirs. She was at the Guild nursing home five days a week until it closed; then five days a week at the GuildCare Adult Day Center in Yonkers, and then three days.

Then came word that her program and the GuildCare choir were being axed entirely. "I am in shock but most of all horrified for my people," she says. "They have nothing. They are old, poor, and on top of that, blind. They are totally dependent on Medicaid."

Some had lost their sight entirely. Others with dementia were losing their memories. And now even the day care residents were losing music therapy, which could be, as Moran puts it, "sometimes the one thing that can draw someone out."

Neither Moran nor Maria Claro (who made $38,000 a year), an outspoken aide laid off around the same time, seemed surprised that their salaries would fail to register with the Guild, whose revenues (including affiliated organizations) can go into the hundreds of millions.

At the other end of the pay scale at the Guild, it's a different story. In 2008, the Guild was paying its CEO, Alan Morse, J.D., Ph.D., a total compensation package of $843,502. Then came 2009, the first full year after the financial crash, which compromised the Guild's revenue streams.

Instead of going down that year, however, Morse's compensation went up some 82 percent, topping $1.5 million.

Although he runs a nonprofit, Morse is comfortably in the 1 percent that Occupy Wall Street has made everyone so much more aware of.

In fact, if you use The New York Times' "What Percent Are You?" interactive tool, you'll see that Morse was in the top 1 percent not just nationally, but also in the higher-earning New York metropolitan region, even before his big raise in 2009.

In the nonprofit world, things don't turn out to be so different than in places like Wall Street.

Founded in 1916 as the New York Guild for the Jewish Blind and granted tax-exempt status in 1941, the organization's name was changed to the Jewish Guild for the Blind in 1960.

A February/March 2011 article in The Jewish Daily Forward described Morse as the "head of a charity ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation." It also described the Guild as a modern, nonsectarian organization.

At the Guild day center in Yonkers the Voice visited, most of the residents were black and Hispanic, and they were putting on a gospel concert. A Guild newsletter features a visit from Santa Claus at another center.

"We are a healthcare organization, the largest of our kind in the country, and not a Jewish Federation or social agency," Morse told the Forward in an e-mail. (Through the Guild's PR office, Morse did not respond to repeated interview requests from the Voice, nor to detailed sets of specific, e-mailed questions.)

Like many nonprofits, the Guild's financial model is largely based upon receiving government funds in exchange for executing government contracts (in this case, getting Medicaid in order to facilitate services for the blind).

Or more simply—as several people who have worked there have put it—it's a "Medicaid cash cow."

Before the recession, when Medicaid funding was relatively flush, such nonprofits had incentive to get as many client contracts as possible. According to the Forward, the Guild had grown to 560 employees by last year, with locations in New York, Massachusetts, and Florida.

In addition to centers in New York City and Yonkers, the Guild operated a nursing home in Yonkers until 2009, when, according to employees there at the time, "it was no longer profitable."

"It was terrible," Moran says, when the home was closed, and the blind residents were moved to other facilities. "Imagine you are blind. Knowing where everything is is extremely important. And to lose that, at the end of your life . . ."

In a September 2011 article, the New York Daily News reported that "Michael Henderson, who once oversaw the guild's procurement, claimed he was fired in 2009 after complaining about irregularities. Henderson said the guild spent $100,000 on imported furniture for Morse's part-time White Plains office and he claimed another officer pocketed $100,000 from the sale of guild property."

The Voice could find no court record of any such suit ever being filed. The Daily News says the suit was settled in 2011 and that Henderson died of cancer that same year. Colleagues who worked with Henderson allege that he was fired with the Guild knowing how serious his illness was.

The Guild's day center in Yonkers is located in an industrial park near the Hudson River. Its clients, with various levels of vision, hail from the Bronx and Westchester County, many of whom are picked up by the Guild. Cognitively, they span from extreme clarity to dementia.

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26 comments
Boo_Bottoms
Boo_Bottoms

Typical liberals... ripping off the Taxpayers and the these poor people. No wonder they support the Magic Negro.... it's like printing money.

F'n Joos are either stealing through the Banks or social programs like this... money is their God!

Larry Marsden
Larry Marsden

Even the nonprofit organizations are doing the wall street hustle!!!

Ymgscoringhigh
Ymgscoringhigh

Wow, do people still believe that "non-profit" is really not profitable. Come on people, Trillions of dollars are donated around the world, yet we still have hunger, people are still homeless and poor residents roofs still leak. It's a bigger scam than politicians and these people get praised for the "WORK". Of course they have great big marble mantles to put all their do gooder awards on. Why be a politician at all, just start a non-profit.

Hamilton55
Hamilton55

You are absolutely correct....I cringe when I hear someone say, here's a problem/ need let's start a program or NFP.

Dean Michael Mead
Dean Michael Mead

It took a while for the public to catch on to what is going on at the Guild. They killed a phenomenal early intervention program for blind children under 4, many of them multiply handicapped as well. Why did they kill it? It wasn't profitable. Hold on a second, isn't that concept inherent in the mission of a not-for-profit organization? They do the things that private business won't do because they're not profitable activities.

Stealinghope
Stealinghope

i feel that there ought to be in addition to (1) for profit and (2) not for profit organizations there ought to be a third category: (3) not for profit, my foot organizations ... as evinced herein (this article) and other places there are many people at not for profits who do quite well financially, including, but not limited to 'development' (fund raising) people who sometimes get a percentage of the take. one example of a 'renowned' organization (MSKCC) whose non pareil raison d'etre (and mostly selfless employees) is at times in variance with their tack and actions: “Sloan is pursuing a systemic approach to reducing expenses and increasing revenues […] One example of this is discouraging terminally ill patients from seeking initial treatment or second opinions from the cancer center […] the admission of such patients is counterproductive […] to Sloan Kettering.” [paraphrasing salient features, MSKCC, CFO/Chief Financial Officer] ... there are also instances of craven self servitude at MSKCC conducted by people who drop their moral compasses, yet clearly know better. another example is the aids vaccine ride of perhaps ~ 15 years ago, multiple sponsored city to city 3 day ~ 300 mile bike rides that required relatively large sums of funds to be raised for the cause by participants, but when all was said and done, perhaps ~ 14% of accruals went to charity. That's just not right.

Stealinghope
Stealinghope

There ought to be 3 categories of business: (1) for profit; (2) not for profit; (3) not for profit, my a** ... as there are many at not for profits who make a lot of money ... including beggars in three piece suits (a Paul Fussell [Class] term) a.k.a. 'development' people. Take for example the 'renowned' MSKCC ... “Sloan is pursuing a systemic approach to reducing expenses and increasing revenues […] One example of this is discouraging terminally ill patients from seeking initial treatment or second opinions from the cancer center […] the admission of such patients is counterproductive […] to Sloan Kettering.” [paraphrasing salient features, MSKCC, CFO/Chief Financial Officer] ... at that Institute whose raison d'etre is indeed non pareil and most of whose employees are selfless there are unfortunately individuals (suits, non-clinicians, etc. ) who attempt to influence enrollment in clinical trials in variance with a clinician's intuition when very large milestone [clinical trial phase completion dependent] royalty payments lay in the balance. In addition attempts to expand by that institute have been described as bullying are framed by the bizarre facilities management and infrastructure problems that are swept under the rug. These include but are not limited to chronically exposing its workers to poison (carbon monoxide) [resulting in abandonment of a building after firstly dispatching selfless employees who rightfully complain about safety issues on pretense], knowingly not installing ductwork controls in a laboratory building and other egregious oversights that stand to affect and have likely effected reaction conditions of experiments that may result in clinical trial candidates. the following citation is but one example: http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/e... ... Ariad stock once increased by 100x (10,000%!!) in perhaps a 4 month time frame. Are YOU an Ariad millionaire? Were you in on that? MSKCC's incumbent President is currently involved in his own he said/she said (IP) Intellectual Property imbroglio. The disingenuousness that emanates from that Institute is intermittently palpable, and those who commit conflict of interest, ethics, environmental health and safety lapses clearly know better.

Bk
Bk

I spent five years working for one of the most well-known non-profits, and the experience led me to the understanding that one should give a charitable contribution ONLY to a direct service provider. Those large, national paper tiger non-profits all have overpaid mouthpieces, be they execs, boards or consultants. As with most things political, grass roots is where it's greener, donation-wise.

Hmmmm
Hmmmm

Occupy is funded, run, and promoted by non profit crooks.

tampajohn1
tampajohn1

Occupy is right on ---time to do a lot of readjustment $$$$$ - and get rid of these crony ". Not for profit" crooks. United Way - same con game --March of Dimes same con game. It is a national con game and the insiders know it. Wake up America!

NirzwanB
NirzwanB

the courts should take the money and belongings of that evil person and do something good with it to make up for this.

Raydog1973
Raydog1973

The thing is most of these non profit presidents probably come from money in the first place. In my expericnes nonprofit leadership is filled with the blacksheep of rich families who dont want to be surrounded by all that wealth than end up making the same amount of money in a nonprofit enviorment

Gues
Gues

Why didn't this article mention the organization's Board of Directors, and their responsibility to run the organization in a fiscally responsible manner? They are the ones that approve the budget, including the President's compensation.

Datebi
Datebi

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car movers
car movers

not everything is money, there are something called values and you have to stand for that. Morse is type who don't care about it and its his failure no matter how much he earns

Datebi
Datebi

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Paula
Paula

I heard the Alzheimer's Association is also like this.

Alexandra
Alexandra

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crookedE
crookedE

Morse should take a lesson from his own (former) employees - sometimes you do work for reasons other than money.

zagfooo
zagfooo

See now that is exactly what I am talking about dude. WOw.Total-Privacy dot US

alvise giglio
alvise giglio

OMG! Alan Morse is the scum below the pond scum in the septic tank in my yard. What a heartless bastard!!

msbpodcast
msbpodcast

Alan Morse is a rich prick without a conscience.

When the zombie apocalipse comes, I hope he is not one of the first to go.

I want him to suffer.

Maybe they'll just eat his eyes and keep the rest of him as a larder.

 
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