Colorado Coalition for the Homeless CEO makes $313K: Is he worth it?

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — Nonprofits aren’t known for paying a lot of money, but the top 13 people at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless all make six-figure salaries.

Chief Executive Officer and President John Parvensky’s annual salary is $313,427, according to the nonprofit’s 990 tax form.

“If they’re not paying it to me, they’re going to be paying it to the next guy,” Parvensky said, who pointed out it’s the board of directors who set his salary. “When I started here 36 years ago, it was $20,000, so it’s grown as our budget and organization has grown.”

Parvensky started with six staff members back in the mid-1980s. Now he oversees 750 people. His top six people all make more than $200,000 a year, and the next six people all make over $131,000 a year.

“When you talk about those folks making over $100,000, we’re talking about psychiatrists, we’re talking about doctors, we are talking about medical personnel who, if they were working at other hospitals, institutions in our community, would be making much more,” Parvensky said.

He is well aware public perception assumes nonprofits don’t pay well, and compared to the private sector, they often don’t. But he said they have to pay well enough to attract and keep staff.

The annual budget for the CCH is about $100 million, 54% of which goes toward employee salaries and benefits.

“The fact that most of our funding goes to salaries, well that’s the case in almost all nonprofits. But our salaries are going to provide those services that are critical to end homelessness for people. The other half of that is going to rental assistance to be able to pay rent so that they have a place to be,” Parvensky said.

According to its 990 tax forms, the CCH spends 90% of its budget on program services, 8% on general administration, and 2% on fundraising.

The website Charity Navigator, which analyzes how nonprofits spend money, gives CCH a perfect score of 100.

“I tell people if we lost John Parvensky, would have to pay twice as much,” said Tom Reid, who sits on the board of the directors for the CCH.

‘Are they doing the things they say in their mission that they will do?’

“The number of people in the U.S. who can run a $100 million operation and help thousands and thousands of people is a pretty small number,” said Reid, who told the Problem Solvers the board does comparative surveys with other nonprofits and charity hospitals to determine Parvensky’s $313,427 annual salary.

“I think the first perception when they (people) hear that is probably one of shock … that is a perception that I really hope changes,” said Katie Thomas, a law professor at the University of Denver, who also is the executive director of the Colorado Nonprofit Legal Center.

She said the public often lacks perspective when it comes to nonprofit salaries and said Parvensky’s is not unreasonable based on his operational budget and years of experience. Thomas said what the public should focus on is results.

“The number of roofs put over families heads, looking at the actual impact. Are they doing the things they say in their mission that they will do?” she said.

The Colorado Coalition releases an annual report on its accomplishments, which include 2,000 units of housing in the past 20 years. 

Parvensky said every night the coalition helps house 4,000 households that would otherwise be homeless.

“Do I think I’m worth that ($313,000 a year)? I bust my butt trying to create as much housing and as much healthcare and access and solve problems that other people think are unsolvable,” Parvensky said.

With contributions in reporting from Carisa Scott, Serena Ung and DJ Summers.

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