The Star Tribune's annual report on nonprofits ("Doing good, doing well?" Dec. 18) took a properly balanced approach to the issue of nonprofit executive pay: Leading a successful nonprofit requires increasingly complex knowledge and skills; donors want their contributions to support mission, not salary.
A common misconception, however, is that nonprofits have a choice between spending money on mission or salaries -- most nonprofits carry out their missions through employees. Nonprofits can't deliver high-quality services without paying adequately.
That's not to say that there aren't nonprofit executives with inflated salaries, but it's the exception. Donors can view the process organizations' boards used to establish executive pay in their Form 990, which are available online at guidestar.org.
Look for the use of comparative salary data and that the pay was determined by people financially independent of the organization. Salaries are a reflection of societal values.
We all benefit when good people are attracted to oversee large, complex nonprofit organizations that improve the lives of individuals and the community. The psychic reward for doing good is one such attraction, shared by most nonprofit executives I know.
But they shouldn't have to turn away from fair compensation to do this work.
RICH COWLES, EAGAN
The writer is executive director of the Charities Review Council.