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Some nonprofits' salaries hit hard by economy

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Salaries for Lincoln’s nonprofit organizations’ executive directors vary as much as the roles they play. The News Messenger surveyed various Lincoln nonprofit organizations about what they do, if they are having trouble staying open during the poor economy and what their executives’ salaries are. The highest paid nonprofit executive director, Bob Romness, surveyed receives a combined $119,777 per year, and the lowest paid nonprofit director, Juan Hernandez, receives $11,232 per year. Romness is the Lincoln Volunteer Center’s executive director and the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive officer. Both nonprofits share a building on F Street. Romness works full time with both organizations. “The Volunteer Center’s main function is to engage community residents in community service, by helping other organizations get volunteers as well as the volunteer center has specific activities,” Romness said. “The Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce is to promote business in the city of Lincoln, attracting and retaining them and to support our members.” The News Messenger asked Romness if both organizations are having trouble staying open. “We have our annual events that we do, like the Shoppers Expo, golf tournament, and the Showcase in September is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Romness said, regarding the chamber. “We’re (The Lincoln Volunteer Center) doing OK,” Romness said. “Fundraising can be a challenge.” The News Messenger asked Romness what his annual salary is for both organizations. He suggested visiting www.guidestar.org. “I can go to Guidestar just as easy as you. All nonprofits have to file with the federal government and Guidestar,” Romness said. “I don’t have that. I just don’t.” According to the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce’s 990EZ for 2009, Romness earned $42,131 through that organization. The 990EZ for the Lincoln Volunter Center listed Romness as earning $77,646 for his work with that organization. Romness said, via e-mail, that the volunteer has one full-time paid employee and one paid part-time employee. “All of the volunteers that assist the Volunteer Center from time to time are unpaid,” Romness said. The News Messenger asked Romness how many hours per week he spends working for the Lincoln Volunteer Center. “As many as it takes in the course of five, six or seven days per week,” Romness said. Romness said his main responsibility with the Volunteer Center is “promoting volunteerism and connecting organizations that need volunteers with local residents who want to volunteer.” With the center since 1999, Romness said his salary is funded through “contributions to the volunteer center and fundraising.” Romness chose to answer by e-mail instead of in person or by phone. The News Messenger asked for a clarification to his e-mailed answer about what type of donations and what type of fundraising the Volunteer Center does. “How about you say, he wasn’t able to respond by press time,” Romness responded. Police Activities League (PAL) Executive Director Steve Krueger explained Tuesday what his organization does. “PAL is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering positive relationships founded on mutual respect, trust and understanding between police officers and young people,” Krueger said. He said PAL “relies heavily on community donations,” as well as its two major fundraisers, the spring comedy night and October Lobster Fest. “The heavy downturn in the economy has been quite difficult and has forced us to tighten our belts, just like every other organization,” Krueger said. Krueger serves as Lincoln’s youth services officer and spends 10-plus hours per week on PAL-related activities or events. “There is no salary for that. It’s just part of my job,” Krueger said. Juan and Karen Hernandez, a husband-and-wife team, run both ReDirect and the Lincoln Youth Center, which is funded through ReDirect, according to previous News Messenger reports. Karen Hernandez said she and her husband don’t get paid for their work with ReDirect but Juan Hernandez gets paid $18 an hour for the 12 hours a week the Youth Center is open. They both have jobs outside of their nonprofit work. “It’s because the kids are important to us so whatever we’ve got to do to keep the program going, we’ll do it, volunteer or paid,” Karen Hernandez said. The Youth Center recently lost $37,619 in funding from Thunder Valley Casino, which Karen Hernandez said meant she had to find a full-time job instead. She currently does not get paid for her ReDirect work. Karen Hernandez said ReDirect works to “provide opportunities” for Lincoln’s youth through programs including sports, health and education. “We provide opportunities for kids that either are not aware of them or no one has taken the time to figure out what their interest is,” Karen Hernandez said. Keeping the Youth Center open three days a week has a price tag of $2,000 a month, Karen Hernandez said. Daily operations includes food and activities for the children, according to Karen Hernandez. “ReDirect raised enough funds to keep it going for the summer,” Karen Hernandez said. “We are going to be faced with the same thing come again fall.” Eric Long, Salt Mine president, said he makes $675 a week, which translates to $32,400 a year. Long explained what Salt Mine does. “We are a community-outreach resource center and our primary ministry is to feed those in need,” Long said, adding that “we feed over 1,500 families a month.” Salt Mine receives its funding through sales at the ministry’s two thrift stores, Salt Seller and Salt Mine, and through its church, Vine Life Ministries. “When it comes to revenue, it’s half and half,” Long said. When asked if Salt Mine is having trouble keeping its doors open, Long said, “sometimes yes and sometimes no.” “We are at the same position that the rest of the businesses are in the community,” Long said. We have some good months. Some months, we have to cut back.” Lincoln Arts president June Reeves said the salary of executive director Claudia Renati “has not changed in probably three years” but could not say what that was. According to the Form 990-EZ filed by Lincoln Arts in 2009, Renati made $46,000 in 2009. “At the moment, we’re doing fine,” Reeves said in reference to Lincoln Arts staying open. “We just finished Feats (of Clay), which is our money maker, and we made enough money from last year to get through this year.” Reeves said she could not say how much money this year’s Feats of Clay made. Renati is on vacation and unavailable for comment. “I don’t know exactly how much it was because, after an exhausting month of tours, Lincoln Arts was closed for a week,” Reeves said. “A final count of the money we made will not be ready until our board meeting in July.” The News Messenger asked Reeves what Lincoln Arts provides the community. “We provide art, Feats of Clay, and educational programs that are free to the public, except the tours of Gladding McBean,” Reeves said. Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center Executive Director Angela Ponivas said she earns $79,000 a year. “We provide counseling, educational classes, and resources to almost all of Placer County, with a focus on Lincoln and Sheridan,” Ponivas said. Ponivas said it costs Lighthouse $300 a year to help one person 10 times during that year. “We are always struggling so it is constant work,” Ponivas said. “Lighthouse has about 70 percent funding that comes from grants and contracts. A great responsibility of my job is to bring in that funding.” The News Messenger asked Patti Larson, information services manager for Sacramento-based Nonprofit Resource Center, similar questions. Larson was asked if nonprofit salaries are in line with today’s economy. “The executive director of a hospital would be paid quite a bit more than that of a small nonprofit that works with animals,” Larson said. “The skills and the pay level of those people that are comparable are going to be quite different.” Larson said her organization provides a benefit survey for nonprofit organizations, which considers an organization’s size, geographic location and what executive directors are being paid. Larson was asked if an executive director salary of $100,000-plus would make it harder to get donations for their organization. “Only if that salary is completely out of line with the kind of positions that are similar to that in the community,” Larson said, explaining that factors include budget size, geographic location and field of service. “All of those variables play into how a salary is determined.”