More than 40 percent of nonprofit leaders across the country saw their salaries decline or freeze in 2010, according to a new report on nonprofit executive compensation.

Compensation was lowest for CEOs overseeing religious organizations and animal welfare groups. It was highest for CEOs of health care, science and technology organizations.

The median compensation package for a nonprofit leader in Minnesota was $96,000, according to research by Guidestar, one of the nation's leading sources on nonprofit information, which has been tracking CEO compensation for years.

"Our report tells us that the effect ... of the downturn in the economy lasted into 2010," said Chuck McLean, GuideStar's vice president of research and the author of the report, based on 77,000 nonprofit tax returns filed in 2010.

The report is considered a benchmark for salary-setting by U.S. nonprofits. It tracks salary trends by geography, gender, nonprofit budget and type of work.. The report found:

• Salaries for women CEOs continue to lag behind men's. The larger the nonprofit, the larger the gap. The gap ranged from 10 percent at organizations with budgets of $250,000 to $500,000, to 25 percent at nonprofits with $50 million-plus budgets.

• CEOs in Washington, D.C., took home the biggest packages, earning a median $152,000 in 2010. Those in New York and Boston were also at the top of the list, earning $137,000 and $114,000 respectively.

• The smaller the nonprofit, the smaller the pay. The median compensation was $44,000 for leaders of nonprofits with budgets of $250,000 or less. It was $53,800 for nonprofits with $250,000 to $500,000 budgets, and $68,000 for nonprofits with budgets of $500,000 to $1 million.

Most nonprofits fall into those categories. But for the big guns, nonprofits with budgets of $25 million to $50 million, the median CEO compensation was $243,000 at the top tier.

The report is available, for a fee, at

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511