January 17, 2014

Giving big: Aspen-area nonprofits and their economic impact

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The Andersen Ranch Arts Center is one of the valley's top nonprofit organizations.

Source: Andersen Ranch

The Andersen Ranch Arts Center is one of the valley's top nonprofit organizations.

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend concerts are among the most visible of all nonprofit events in the upper valley.

Courtesy photo: JAS

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend concerts are among the most visible of all nonprofit events in the upper valley. JAS

ASPEN – Nonprofits in the upper Roaring Fork River valley collectively brought in more than $103 million and spent nearly $113 million over a recent one-year period. Their combined assets added up to almost $272 million and their chief executives earned well over $6 million, according to an analysis of public data by Aspen Journalism.

With more than 110 organizations holding the IRS’ 501(c)(3) designation in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Snowmass, Woody Creek, and Basalt, it’s clear that nonprofits represent a significant chunk of the local economy. But how much impact do they have? Is the Aspen area awash in too many nonprofits, as some might think? And how well are local chief executives compensated, in comparison to industry averages and best practices?

To attempt to answer some of these questions, Aspen Journalism analyzed nonprofit tax return data from the IRS made available through ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer research tool. Most of the data in the Nonprofit Explorer database can be found on an organization’s Form 990, which the IRS requires to be filed annually, unless the nonprofit’s revenues fall under $50,000.

The financial information and calculations here offer a one-year snapshot of the most recent data available, which is generally from 2011, although some records contain earlier or later data depending on how the organization’s fiscal year falls. To ensure as much consistency as possible, we only included records that had at least six months’ worth of 2011 data.

The data in the table, below, can be sorted by using the up and down indicators, and can be expanded to include all 112 organizations listed. The table is preset to show nonprofits by annual revenue. Also see an expanded table that includes all of the data used for this story.

NONPROFITLOCATIONREVENUEEXPENSESASSETSLIABILITIESEXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAY SITE
ASPEN ART MUSEUMAspen$10,739,263$4,753,715$17,675,622$4,029,878$645,253
ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTESnowmass$10,020,846$11,755,862$10,280,047$2,720,530$620,763
MUSIC ASSOCIATES OF ASPEN INC/ ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL AND SCHOOLAspen$7,673,803$14,035,128$66,791,111$612,352$430,341
JAZZ AT ASPEN-SNOWMASSAspen$6,413,015$6,434,650$784,931$1,208,886$102,917
ASPEN COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL INCAspen$5,251,379$4,859,034$13,037,115$2,342,406$285,838
ASPEN COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONAspen$4,482,143$15,390,443$32,756,804$3,753,883$130,000
ANDERSON RANCH ARTS FOUNDATIONSnowmass Village$4,273,081$3,264,520$11,212,003$162,368$175,000-
ASPEN SANTA FE BALLETAspen$3,871,381$3,593,187$6,138,717$51,937$121,304
COMPASS FOR LIFELONG DISCOVERYWoody Creek$3,532,065$3,569,464$7,119,265$3,310,167$65,686
ASPEN VALLEY SKI-SNOWBOARD CLUB INCAspen$3,319,612$3,418,964$1,181,098$631,199$139,792
LOW INCOME FAMILY ENRICHMENT CORPORATION/LIFE FOUNDATIONAspen$3,063,052$2,947,417$22,046,150$25,499,449$150,106
HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY INCBasalt$2,995,580$3,006,736$1,182,151$304,965$117,754
ASPEN VALLEY MEDICAL FOUNDATION LIMITEDAspen$2,955,641$2,751,616$10,296,426$2,465,797$245,164
ASPEN ART MUSEUM FOUNDATIONAspen$2,184,577$1,793,751$9,039,823$2,000--
MERCY & SHARINGAspen$2,043,548$2,510,500$2,225,122$6,397$0
ASPEN CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIESAspen$1,916,157$1,318,570$8,320,075$85,420$114,385
EARLY LEARNING CENTER INCAspen$1,501,419$1,526,271$268,887$63,082-
CHALLENGE ASPENSnowmass Village$1,401,708$1,653,342$2,505,415$32,807$265,310
TENTH MOUNTAIN DIVISION HUT ASSOCIATION INCAspen$1,332,844$1,157,849$4,468,588$1,146,661$90,733
COMMUNITY OFFICE FOR RESOURCE EFFICIENCY (CORE)Aspen$1,144,135$822,451$2,181,623$7,380$84,975
THE BUDDY PROGRAM INCAspen$1,131,528$1,065,948$1,621,407$20,408$143,400
ASPEN HISTORICAL SOCIETYAspen$1,095,333$1,092,713$2,210,152$40,948$90,151
ROARING FORK PUBLIC RADIO INC/ KAJX-ASPEN PUBLIC RADIOAspen$1,038,431$1,003,279$761,341$119,916$76,000
COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES INCAspen$947,018$956,442$612,934$53,710$99,318
RIGHT DOOR INCAspen$922,660$983,866$215,297$1,047$56,268
ASPEN GLOBAL CHANGE INSTITUTE INCBasalt$690,110$769,305$199,677$3,248$100,903
ECOFLIGHTAspen$659,863$551,677$764,121$8,820$151,444
ASPENFILMAspen$627,016$727,282$678,993$57,371$85,026
EXTREME SPORTS CAMP INCBasalt$595,395$596,438$149,894$53,267$69,606
ROARING FORK CONSERVANCYBasalt$594,304$565,072$2,271,698$65,434$64,000
ASPEN EDUCATION FOUNDATIONAspen$579,741$548,865$436,275$17-
TENTH MOUNTAIN ENDOWMENT FUND INCAspen$575,191$332,909$5,262,685$0--
CHILDRENS HEALTH FOUNDATIONAspen$563,920$693,403$289,387$4,852$128,900
THRIFT SHOP INCAspen$553,760$736,223$2,336,838$17,050-
GRASSROOTS TELEVISION INCAspen$529,410$507,029$63,686$10,729$99,802
ALFRED A BRAUN HUT SYSTEM INCAspen$521,936$97,865$1,515,219$17,089-
WILDWOOD SCHOOL INCAspen$493,770$488,235$648,656$73,902-
ASPEN JUNIOR HOCKEY INCAspen$483,468$439,957$662,485$44,402$60,000
ASPEN CAMP OF THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARINGSnowmass$475,638$462,820$1,458,337$18,057$40,000
TEAM RWANDA CYCLINGAspen$458,755$290,464$181,798$0-
PUBLIC COUNSEL OF THE ROCKIESAspen$456,793$306,671$245,610$0$57,000
UNITED JEWISH APPEAL ASPEN VALLEY CAMPAIGNAspen$441,125$355,482$136,445$1,005$0
PATHFINDERSAspen$425,924$281,923$808,180$95,413-
SNOWMASS WESTERN HERITAGE ASSOCIATIONSnowmass Village$412,513$336,288$100,462$0$15,000
ASPEN PITKIN EMPLOYEE HOUSING INCBasalt$381,313$227,286$1,426,438$66,568$0-
HELP FOR SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSUALTAspen$372,117$353,746$194,474$23,287$58,574-
LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE EDUCATIONAL AND COMMUNITY CENTER INCSnowmass Village$340,640$336,890$142,329$12,934$53,819
ASPEN CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES ENDOWMENT FUND INCAspen$330,168$287,537$6,070,008$22,013--
WYLY COMMUNITY ARTSBasalt$323,613$278,542$195,741$7,180$74,379
ROARING FORK GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY FUNDAspen$314,126$295,545$191,927$898$21,000
GROWING YEARS SCHOOLBasalt$310,531$293,690$107,746$23,809$45,571
FRIENDS OF THE ASPEN ANIMAL SHELTERAspen$268,993$230,677$701,410$10,786$64,840
TRASHMASTERS INTERNATIONAL INCSnowmass Village$250,695$242,769$48,005$4,440-
ASPEN SCIENCE CENTERAspen$238,734$355,823$107,851$0$127,500
NESHAMA CENTERAspen$235,883$163,048$191,803$0$60,000
ROARING FORK OUTDOOR VOLUNTEERSBasalt$233,906$229,180$94,572$8,185$68,660
CHRIS KLUG FOUNDATIONAspen$228,931$154,789$242,978$15,308$43,000
AREI INC (AREDAY)Aspen$219,453$206,271$13,780$598$27,000
ASPEN SKIING COMPANY ENVIRONMENT FOUNDATIONAspen$203,481$176,836$77,631$0-
ASPEN HOMELESS SHELTERAspen$198,271$198,021$480$0-
MOUNTAIN RESCUE ASPEN INCAspen$196,701$142,158$752,597$0-
ENGLISH IN ACTIONBasalt$174,044$163,093$71,614$17,450$47,206
ASPEN JOURNALISMAspen$165,000$70,388$94,612$0$39,375
INDEPENDENCE PASS FOUNDATIONAspen$161,571$236,903$601,355$0$48,649
LES DAMES DASPEN LTDAspen$151,552$155,623$138,845$134,396$26,072
RED BRICK COUNCIL FOR THE ARTSAspen$150,639$162,245$58,352$5,004$64,119
VALLEY PARTNERSHIP FOR DRUG PREVENTIONAspen$148,173$188,501$106,700$54,246$73,530
BASALT THRIFT STOREBasalt$142,213$141,540$8,012$0--
ACHIEVE KIDS TRI INCAspen$135,927$126,395$29,005$15,697-
ASPEN SWIM CLUBAspen$132,077$91,466$77,574$2,203-
WORLD BRAIN FORUM FOUNDATION/ASPEN BRAIN FORUMAspen$131,000$178,626$19,589$0-
ASPEN JUNIOR GOLF FOUNDATION INCAspen$129,979$104,009$187,275$0$53,000
ROARING FORK CENTER FOR COMMUNITY LEADERSHIPAspen$116,427$114,313$56,206$5,165$48,169
THEATRE MASTERSAspen$116,185$77,350$208,213$0$0
WOODY CREEK COMMUNITY CENTER INCWoody Creek$112,409$98,582$112,133$1,746$44,000
COLORADO 500 CHARITY FUNDBasalt$94,818$121,984$625,950$1$0
COMMON SENSE REGENERATION PROJECTAspen$89,622$60,016$41,409$522$33,500-
ASPEN COMMUNITY THEATREAspen$87,896$96,998$282,047$0-
ALPINE INITIATIVESAspen$85,440$29,095$65,979$0$0
EARTHBEAT CHOIR INCAspen$81,866$90,596$8,492$0--
ASPEN CHORAL SOCIETYAspen$81,699$90,829$7,775$4,694$53,488
ASPEN UNITED SOCCER CLUB INCAspen$65,617$63,968$6,858$0-
EXECUTIVE SERVICE CORPS INCAspen$62,988$60,407$59,551$0$50,000
CENTRAL ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERMACULTURE INSTITUTEBasalt$61,402$57,781$78,215$17,322$11,717
BASALT EDUCATION FOUNDATIONBasalt$56,602$57,748$11,207$5,515-
BUS FUNDBasalt$54,796$59,276$104,908$85,582--
ASPEN STRATEGY CENTERAspen$53,900$49,231$10,669$6,000$0
SAVING OUR STREAMSAspen$51,200$40,373$11,613$0--
HIKE FOR HOPE FOUNDATION INCAspen$50,845$50,431$62,697$397$0
DIGITAL ARTS FOUNDATIONAspen$45,600$41,563$39,877$12,876$0-
BASALT REGIONAL HERITAGE SOCIETYBasalt$43,002$47,349$3,280$0-
WHEELER HOUSE OPERA HOUSE ASSOCIATIONAspen$41,543$32,296$326,767$255-
ASPEN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT INCAspen$40,246$25,666$139,664$541-
ASPEN BOARD OF REALTORS BILL HELDMAN-STARK KING MEMORIAL SCHOLABasalt$39,718$76,276$411,125$0--
PITKIN COUNTY AIR RESCUE GROUP INCAspen$31,541$30,670$464,290$0--
OCEAN HEALING GROUP INCAspen$31,045$23,959$19,972$4,837$0
FAT CITY FARMERS INCBasalt$30,636$27,694$3,167$0-
ASPEN WINTER SPORTS FOUNDATION INCAspen$28,661$105,698$3,013,774$80,489-
WINDSTAR FOUNDATIONSnowmass$25,980$42,003$42,714$6,971$0
ASPEN CANCER SURVIVOR CENTERAspen$25,947$33,212$34,119$0$17,955
SNOWMASS VILLAGE COMMUNITY FUND INCSnowmass Village$25,436$15,334$53,814$0--
GRASSROOTS ASIASnowmass Village$22,873$111,828$24,003$26,036$0
TOMORROWS VOICESAspen$19,437$33,157$209$0-
WORLD HISTORY CONNECTED THE JOURNAL OF LEARNING AND TEACHINGAspen$15,014$4,088$32,768$0-
SNOWMASS-CAPITOL CREEK CAUCUSSnowmass$15,000$90,160$3,802$0-
CLIMB FOR CONSERVATION INCAspen$1,675$884$790$0-
INTERNATIONAL FLAMINGO FOUNDATIONAspen$1,607$1,696$55,021$6,039$0
FRIENDS OF THE ASPEN SPORTS AND RECREATION COMPLEX (SPARC)Aspen$1,000$7,969$114,936$0--
AMERICAN LEAGUE FOR EFFECTIVERESPONSES TO TERRORISMSnowmass$0$1$2,473$0$0-
F A I RAspen$0$0$5,566$0--
INTERNATIONAL FIELD STUDIES MICH INBasalt$0$10$432$0--
The Andersen Ranch Arts Center is one of the valley's top nonprofit organizations.

The Andersen Ranch Arts Center is one of the valley's top nonprofit organizations.

Parsing the nonprofit data

Of the 112 upper valley nonprofits we examined, about one-fifth of them (23) had both revenues and expenses topping $1 million in 2011. Two — the Aspen Art Museum and Rocky Mountain Institute — brought in more than $10 million. Rounding out the top five nonprofits with the highest revenue were the Music Associates of Aspen ($7.7 million), Jazz Aspen Snowmass ($6.4 million), and Aspen Country Day School ($5.3 million).

Had it been included in our analysis, the Aspen Institute would have been by far the No. 1 nonprofit in revenue generation, bringing in $73 million in 2011. But the Aspen-born policy studies organization is headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area and has programs all over the world. While it undoubtedly has a major presence here, the publicly available data does not allow us to determine what part of its budget is allocated to Aspen programming and operations. Without a way to roughly estimate its local economic impact, we decided to leave the Aspen Institute off the list.

The list of nonprofits with over $1 million in annual revenue is mostly a familiar one. It includes several arts and cultural organizations, such as Aspen Santa Fe Ballet ($3.9 million); educational institutions like the Early Learning Center in the Yellow Brick building in Aspen ($1.5 million); and those with a green bent, like the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies ($1.9 million).

Social programming is represented in this top tier by The Buddy Program ($1.1 million), which pairs adult mentors with youth in the Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen Community Foundation ($4.5 million), the major local grantmaking organization, is within the top 10. And a media organization, Aspen Public Radio ($1 million), rounds out the top 23 highest revenue-producing organizations of 2011.

One virtual unknown, the Aspen-based Low Income Family Enrichment (LIFE) Foundation, is the 11th highest grossing nonprofit based in the upper valley, with about $3 million in revenue and expenses for 2011.

Led by executive director Barnett Davis II, the LIFE Foundation buys and develops commercial real estate, which it then leases to government agencies or other nonprofits at a reduced cost, using the proceeds and savings to fund charitable programs and social services. LIFE has done most of its work thus far in California, but is looking for programs in Colorado, said Davis, who has a home in Snowmass Village.

About 50 of the nonprofits had revenue in the six figures in 2011, from the $112,400 reported by the Woody Creek Community Center to $947,000 brought in by Community Health Services. Another 33 or so had less than $100,000 in revenue, and three reported no income: FAIR, International Field Studies Michigan Inc., and the American League for Effective Responses to Terrorism.

Most of the local organizations’ expenses were in line with their revenue, although half of the top 20 revenue-producing nonprofits spent more than they received in 2011. That wasn’t so unusual during the Great Recession, according to the Urban Institute, whose Nonprofit Almanac of 2012 found that “nonprofits are spending more than they are able to generate and have had surplus funds in only two of the past 10 years.”

Total assets range from the $66.8 million reported by the Aspen Music Festival and School — most of which is property and investments — to $209 in “cash, savings, and investments” reported by Tomorrow’s Voices, a civic education program for youth. Eight upper valley nonprofits reported more than $10 million in assets in 2011, but only one — the LIFE Foundation — had that much in liabilities. Most of the $25.5 million LIFE had in liabilities were in “tax-exempt bond liabilities,” according to its Form 990.

It should be noted that Aspen Journalism is included on the list of the upper valley nonprofits. The investigative news organization was 63rd out of 111 in terms of revenue in 2011, bringing in $165,000. It had over $70,000 in expenses, almost $95,000 in assets, and no liabilities.

The office building currently used by most of the local employees of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

The office building currently used by most of the local employees of the Rocky Mountain Institute.Smith / Aspen Journalism

Executive compensation

Nonprofit executive salaries sometimes make news, and for good reason. The Roaring Fork River valley has its share of relatively well-compensated executives — 19 heads of nonprofits made over $100,000 in 2011. Of those, two had compensation packages in excess of half-a-million dollars, and have earned media scrutiny for it.

The upper valley’s most highly compensated nonprofit executive in 2011 was the Aspen Art Museum’s Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, who earned $645,000 as CEO, director, and chief curator. Zuckerman Jacobson, whose position has since become permanently endowed, was one of four local nonprofit executives whose compensation packages had increased by six figures in the mid-2000s, according to an Aspen Times article in September 2012.

Second on the list was Martha Pickett, executive director of Rocky Mountain Institute. Pickett’s $621,000 compensation package was the focus of an October 2013 story by Aspen Public Radio. APR reported that the Old Snowmass-based energy think tank paid its top executive more than any other similar nonprofit in the country. RMI, a 75-employee organization that also has an office in Boulder, had 12 six-figure staffers in 2011, according to the organization’s Form 990.

Had the Aspen Institute been included in our review, CEO Walter Isaacson would have topped the pay list for local executives with his $841,500 compensation package in 2011.

Note that the executive directors or CEOs shown in the table below are the ones listed by the organization on the relevant Form 990 — some executives are no longer with an organization. The “$0” indicate the executive director receives no salary. A dash indicates the organization did not provide data regarding executive compensation.

NONPROFITLOCATIONEXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (AS REPORTED)EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAY PAY AS % OF REVENUEPAY AS % OF EXPENSESAMOUNT OVER/UNDER MEDIAN PAYSITE
ASPEN ART MUSEUMAspenZuckerman Jacobson, Heidi$645,2536.01%13.57%$523,536
ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTESnowmassPickett, Martha$620,7636.19%5.28%$499,046
MUSIC ASSOCIATES OF ASPEN INC/ ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL AND SCHOOLAspenFletcher, Alan$430,3415.61%3.07%$308,624
ASPEN COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL INCAspenSuitor, John$285,8385.44%5.88%$164,121
CHALLENGE ASPENSnowmass VillageCowan, Houston$265,31018.93%16.05%$180,150
ASPEN VALLEY MEDICAL FOUNDATION LIMITEDAspenMarsh, Kris$245,1648.29%8.91%$160,004
ANDERSON RANCH ARTS FOUNDATIONSnowmass VillageBloemink, Barbara$175,0004.10%5.36%$89,840-
ECOFLIGHTAspenGordon, Bruce$151,44422.95%27.45%$66,284
LOW INCOME FAMILY ENRICHMENT CORPORATION/LIFE FOUNDATIONAspenDavis II, Barnett$150,1064.90%5.09%$64,946
THE BUDDY PROGRAM INCAspenProvine, Ann Catherine$143,40012.67%13.45%$58,240
ASPEN VALLEY SKI-SNOWBOARD CLUB INCAspenCole, Mark$139,7924.21%4.09%$54,632
ASPEN COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONAspenTormohlen, Tamara$130,0002.90%0.84%$8,283
CHILDRENS HEALTH FOUNDATIONAspenBurkholder, Mardell$128,90022.86%18.59%$43,740
ASPEN SCIENCE CENTERAspenWard, Kevin$127,50053.41%35.83%$42,340
ASPEN SANTA FE BALLETAspenJean-Malaty, Philippe$121,3043.13%3.38%-$413
HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY INCBasaltButler, Marchita$117,7543.93%3.92%$32,594
ASPEN CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIESAspenCardamone, Tom$114,3855.97%8.67%$29,225
JAZZ AT ASPEN-SNOWMASSAspenHorowitz, Jim$102,9171.60%1.60%-$18,800
ASPEN GLOBAL CHANGE INSTITUTE INCBasaltKatzenberger, John$100,90314.62%13.12%$15,743
GRASSROOTS TELEVISION INCAspenMasters, John$99,80218.85%19.68%$14,642
COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES INCAspenStark, Elizabeth$99,31810.49%10.38%$14,158
TENTH MOUNTAIN DIVISION HUT ASSOCIATION INCAspenDodge, Benjamin$90,7336.81%7.84%$5,573
ASPENFILMAspenMyler, Robyn$85,02613.56%11.69%-$134
ROARING FORK PUBLIC RADIO INC/ KAJX-ASPEN PUBLIC RADIOAspenTodd, Andrew$76,0007.32%7.58%-$9,160
WYLY COMMUNITY ARTSBasaltKyzer, Carlyle$74,37922.98%26.70%-$10,781
VALLEY PARTNERSHIP FOR DRUG PREVENTIONAspenConnally, Michael$73,53049.62%39.01%-$11,630
EXTREME SPORTS CAMP INCBasaltDorman, Scott$69,60611.69%11.67%-$15,554
ROARING FORK OUTDOOR VOLUNTEERSBasaltHamilton, David$68,66029.35%29.96%-$16,500
COMPASS FOR LIFELONG DISCOVERYWoody CreekSkinner, Skye$65,6861.86%1.84%-$56,031
FRIENDS OF THE ASPEN ANIMAL SHELTERAspenGurchick, Anne$64,84024.10%28.11%-$20,320
ROARING FORK CONSERVANCYBasaltLofaro, Rick$64,00010.77%11.33%-$21,160
NESHAMA CENTERAspenVardy, Itzhak$60,00025.44%36.80%-$25,160
HELP FOR SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSUALTAspenMcGavock, Margaret$58,57415.74%16.56%-$26,586-
PUBLIC COUNSEL OF THE ROCKIESAspenMcFlynn, Tim$57,00012.48%18.59%-$28,160
ASPEN CHORAL SOCIETYAspenAdams, Ray$53,48865.47%58.89%-$31,672
ASPEN JUNIOR GOLF FOUNDATION INCAspenRichards, Alden$53,00040.78%50.96%-$32,160
EXECUTIVE SERVICE CORPS INCAspenNolen, Chris$50,00079.38%82.77%-$35,160
ROARING FORK CENTER FOR COMMUNITY LEADERSHIPAspenPalm-Porter, Andrea$48,16941.37%42.14%-$36,991
ENGLISH IN ACTIONBasaltBeaulieu, Lara$47,20627.12%28.94%-$37,954
GROWING YEARS SCHOOLBasaltMatthee, Adele$45,57114.68%15.52%-$39,589
CHRIS KLUG FOUNDATIONAspenDziura, Jennifer$43,00018.78%27.78%-$42,160
ASPEN JOURNALISMAspenGardner-Smith, Brent$39,37523.86%55.94%-$45,785
COMMON SENSE REGENERATION PROJECTAspenVardy, Eden$33,50037.38%55.82%-$51,660-
AREI INC (AREDAY)AspenComins, Walter M$27,00012.30%13.09%-$58,160
LES DAMES DASPEN LTDAspenGerschel, Christine$26,07217.20%16.75%-$59,088
ROARING FORK GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY FUNDAspenGonzales, Richard B.$21,0006.69%7.11%-$64,160
ASPEN CANCER SURVIVOR CENTERAspenKlika, Riggs$17,95569.20%54.06%-$67,205
SNOWMASS WESTERN HERITAGE ASSOCIATIONSnowmass VillageTeague, Diane$15,0003.64%4.46%-$70,160
CENTRAL ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERMACULTURE INSTITUTEBasaltOsentowski, Jerome$11,71719.08%20.28%-$73,443
AMERICAN LEAGUE FOR EFFECTIVERESPONSES TO TERRORISMSnowmassWeiser, Doug$00.00%0.00%-$85,160-
ASPEN STRATEGY CENTERAspenWard, Kevin$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
COLORADO 500 CHARITY FUNDBasaltNo Executive$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
DIGITAL ARTS FOUNDATIONAspenAbbott, Charles$00.00%0.00%-$85,160-
GRASSROOTS ASIASnowmass VillagePennington, Debbie$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
HIKE FOR HOPE FOUNDATION INCAspenSharp, Carole$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
INTERNATIONAL FLAMINGO FOUNDATIONAspenHunt, William$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
MERCY & SHARINGAspenKrabacher, Susie$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
OCEAN HEALING GROUP INCAspenBauer, Frank$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
UNITED JEWISH APPEAL ASPEN VALLEY CAMPAIGNAspenSirkus, Bob$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
WINDSTAR FOUNDATIONSnowmassDeutschendorf, Ron (Chairman) & Karmen Dopslaff (President)$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
ACHIEVE KIDS TRI INCAspenQuinn, Molly----
ALFRED A BRAUN HUT SYSTEM INCAspenNo Executive----
ALPINE INITIATIVESAspenWardell, Erik$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
ASPEN ART MUSEUM FOUNDATIONAspenNo Executive-----
ASPEN BOARD OF REALTORS BILL HELDMAN-STARK KING MEMORIAL SCHOLABasaltNo Executive-----
ASPEN CAMP OF THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARINGSnowmassThomas, Lesa$40,0008.41%8.64%-$45,160
ASPEN CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES ENDOWMENT FUND INCAspenNo Executive-----
ASPEN COMMUNITY THEATREAspenNo Executive----
ASPEN EDUCATION FOUNDATIONAspenNot in Form 990----
ASPEN HISTORICAL SOCIETYAspenHanson, Georgia$90,1518.23%8.25%$4,991
ASPEN HOMELESS SHELTERAspenLeake, Medford----
ASPEN JUNIOR HOCKEY INCAspenWilliams, Tanner$60,00012.41%13.64%-$25,160
ASPEN PITKIN EMPLOYEE HOUSING INCBasaltSanzone, Sheri$00.00%0.00%-$85,160-
ASPEN SKIING COMPANY ENVIRONMENT FOUNDATIONAspenNo Executive----
ASPEN SWIM CLUBAspenNot in Form 990----
ASPEN UNITED SOCCER CLUB INCAspenNot in Form 990----
ASPEN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT INCAspenNo Executive----
ASPEN WINTER SPORTS FOUNDATION INCAspenNo Executive----
BASALT EDUCATION FOUNDATIONBasaltNo Executive----
BASALT REGIONAL HERITAGE SOCIETYBasaltNo Executive----
BASALT THRIFT STOREBasaltNo Executive-----
BUS FUNDBasaltNo Executive-----
CLIMB FOR CONSERVATION INCAspenNo Executive----
COMMUNITY OFFICE FOR RESOURCE EFFICIENCY (CORE)AspenRatledge, Nathan$84,9757.42%10.33%-$185
EARLY LEARNING CENTER INCAspenBurrows, Sara----
EARTHBEAT CHOIR INCAspenNot in Form 990-----
F A I RAspenNo Executive-----
FAT CITY FARMERS INCBasaltNo Executive----
FRIENDS OF THE ASPEN SPORTS AND RECREATION COMPLEX (SPARC)AspenNo Executive-----
INDEPENDENCE PASS FOUNDATIONAspenFuller, Mark$48,64930.11%20.54%-$36,511
INTERNATIONAL FIELD STUDIES MICH INBasaltNo Executive-----
LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE EDUCATIONAL AND COMMUNITY CENTER INCSnowmass VillageDoebler, Season$53,81915.80%15.98%-$31,341
MOUNTAIN RESCUE ASPEN INCAspenNo Executive----
PATHFINDERSAspenNot in Form 990----
PITKIN COUNTY AIR RESCUE GROUP INCAspenNo Executive-----
RED BRICK COUNCIL FOR THE ARTSAspenMuzikar, Debra$64,11942.56%39.52%-$21,041
RIGHT DOOR INCAspenOsborn, Brad$56,2686.10%5.72%-$28,892
SAVING OUR STREAMSAspenNo Executive-----
SNOWMASS VILLAGE COMMUNITY FUND INCSnowmass VillageNo Executive-----
SNOWMASS-CAPITOL CREEK CAUCUSSnowmassNo Executive----
TEAM RWANDA CYCLINGAspenNo Executive----
TENTH MOUNTAIN ENDOWMENT FUND INCAspenNo Executive-----
THEATRE MASTERSAspenHanson, Julia$00.00%0.00%-$85,160
THRIFT SHOP INCAspenNo Executive----
TOMORROWS VOICESAspenNo Executive----
TRASHMASTERS INTERNATIONAL INCSnowmass VillageNo Executive----
WHEELER HOUSE OPERA HOUSE ASSOCIATIONAspenNo Executive----
WILDWOOD SCHOOL INCAspenHelmus, Becky----
WOODY CREEK COMMUNITY CENTER INCWoody CreekCooney, Kris$44,00039.14%44.63%-$41,160
WORLD BRAIN FORUM FOUNDATION/ASPEN BRAIN FORUMAspenNo Executive----
WORLD HISTORY CONNECTED THE JOURNAL OF LEARNING AND TEACHINGAspenNo Executive----
A rendering of the top floor of the Aspen Art Museum building, now under construction in downtown Aspen.

A rendering of the top floor of the Aspen Art Museum building, now under construction in downtown Aspen.

More to the compensation story

According to nonprofit industry experts, compensation figures alone don’t tell the whole story — and there are a few different ways to look at it.

Scanning the nonprofit data we compiled, one expert was struck by one thing in particular.

“Most obvious to me and easiest to spot is that some of the compensation for executive directors in terms of proportion to total revenue is ridiculous,” said Laura Otten, director of The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business.

Zuckerman Jacobson may be making more than any other nonprofit chief executive in the valley, but her salary was just 6 percent of the Aspen Art Museum’s total revenue in 2011, Otten noted. “This woman is running a $10 million organization and then some, so that doesn’t bother me. It’s what’s the size of the organization; what’s the complexity?”

By comparison, Otten pointed out that several local nonprofits pay their top executives a high percentage of the revenue they bring in. From that standpoint, Executive Service Corps’ Chris Nolen tops the list; her $50,000 salary was 79 percent of the organization’s 2011 revenue.

“It’s hard to justify nearly 80 percent of revenue going to an executive director,” said Otten. “Even if a person doesn’t have a support staff, you still have to be concerned about the ratio of leadership expenses to total revenue coming into an organization.”

Otten’s concern is the sustainability of an organization where the majority of the funds go into one salary. “Is 20 percent [remaining after the chief executive gets paid] to sustain the organization a good long-term view of sustainability?” she asked.

In response to these concerns, ESC board director Valerie Borthwick said that Nolen’s salary is the organization’s primary expense, and that the amount — as well as its proportion to revenue and expenses — “is right where we want it to be.”

ESC provides nonprofits with consulting services and education using a network of volunteer executives (often retired). It charges “reasonable fees” to the nonprofits for this and asks for “very small” grants from funders and donors, thus keeping revenue not far above Nolen’s salary, Borthwick explained.

“If we really went out for more grants and raised our prices, it would be a different percentage, but that’s not the model we want to employ,” she said.

Otten acknowledges that unique circumstances can exist that justify high salary-to-revenue ratios. That can also include one-time changes in the typical revenue stream, such as losing a large grant, or if a nonprofit is sunsetting, and one person is winding it down. Aspen’s high cost of living can also justify a higher-than-normal wage percentage — but that should translate to all the nonprofit’s employees, not just the executive director, said Otten.

If the high percentage is the norm over several years, however, the organization needs to be able to explain to donors “why things appear to be out of whack,” she said.

And if the nonprofit is a one-person shop, which is likely often the case in Aspen, the organization should consider whether it makes better sense to divide the pay and duties among another staffer or two, so that everything’s not totally dependent upon one individual.

But that wouldn’t make sense for ESC, said Borthwick.

“Our business requires a highly experienced and knowledgeable consultant to do the assessments, scope projects, write statements of work, write contracts, and manage projects,” she said. “Chris is very unique in that she can do it all. She is administrator, marketing and business development, fundraiser, project manager, program and workshop manager, and public relations person.”

Otten doesn’t have a rule of thumb to determine the appropriate percentage of an organization’s revenues that should pay its top executive. However, “I’m not going to raise an eyebrow if it’s in the 10 to 20 percent range. If it gets above 25 percent, I’m probably going to question it,” she added.

A dozen of the 111 Aspen-area nonprofits — nearly 10 percent — paid their executives more than one-quarter of their revenues in 2011, and five paid half or more. The actual salaries ranged widely. Riggs Klika of the Aspen Cancer Survivor Center made $17,955, 69 percent of the organization’s $25,947 in total revenues that year. The Aspen Science Center’s Kevin Ward, on the other hand, earned $127,500, which was 53 percent of the nonprofit’s revenues.

Not far under the 25 percent threshold was Aspen Journalism Executive Director Brent Gardner-Smith, who according to tax records was paid $39,375 in 2011 — just under 24 percent of the nonprofit’s $165,000 in revenue that year.

Nonprofits with corporate addresses in the upper Roaring Fork River valley bring in about $100 million a year in revenue.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

Nonprofits with corporate addresses in the upper Roaring Fork River valley bring in about $100 million a year in revenue.Smith / Aspen Journalism

Other ways to look at pay

Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and CFO of nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, is not bothered by Aspen-area nonprofit executive salaries. While Charity Navigator rates the nation’s largest charities using various weighted formulas, small charities — which are more the norm in Aspen — can be looked at differently, she said.

“In terms of compensation, if it’s small charity, their salary can be a big portion of expenses, that’s reasonable,” said Miniutti. “You’re better off comparing them with other charities of the same size.”

Charity Navigator officially defines “small” charities as those with less than $3.5 million in expenses — which accounts for the vast majority of upper valley nonprofits. Charity Navigator is more inclined to use a nonprofit’s expenses — rather than revenue — as the benchmark, because “that’s their budget, that’s what they can control,” said Miniutti, who explained that large grants or one-time gifts will skew the revenue numbers.

Using the salary-to-expense ratio, 17 local nonprofits paid their chief executives more than 25 percent of organizational expenses in 2011. All are small organizations, with expenses ranging from $33,000 (Aspen Cancer Survivor Center) to a high of $552,000 (EcoFlight).

The three executives whose compensation represented the smallest ratio of expenses were Tamara Tormohlen of Aspen Community Foundation (0.84 percent), Jim Horowitz of Jazz Aspen Snowmass (1.6 percent), and Skye Skinner of COMPASS for Lifelong Discovery/Aspen Community School (1.84 percent).

And there’s yet another way to look at executive compensation. Charity Navigator produces regular CEO compensation reports, which examine pay practices at thousands of charities and shows how a nonprofit’s location, size, and mission impact its chief executive’s salary. While they won’t account for such factors as the cost of living in Aspen, for example, these studies offer perhaps the most methodological way to compare CEO salaries.

According to the most recent study, published in 2013, median pay in the Mountain West for medium-sized nonprofits (defined as those with $3.5 million to $15 million in expenses) is $121,717. Median pay for the heads of small charities (less than $3.5 million in expenses) is $85,160. The Aspen area does not have any charities that Charity Navigator defines as large — more than $15 million in expenses — although the Aspen Music Festival and School is close, with over $14 million in expenses in 2011.

Using those benchmarks, about one-third of the upper valley nonprofits that reported their top executive’s salary on their Form 990s paid that person more than the median in 2011. Two-thirds, roughly 45, of the chief executives were paid less. Nearly half of the local nonprofits either did not report their executive’s salary (which is a relatively new IRS requirement) or do not have a paid executive.

Six local chief executives made six figures more than the median pay for the Mountain West: the Aspen Art Museum’s Zuckerman Jacobson ($524,000 more), RMI’s Pickett ($499,000 more), Alan Fletcher of AMFS ($309,000 more), Challenge Aspen’s Houston Cowan ($180,000 more), Aspen Country Day School’s John Suitor ($164,000 more), and Aspen Valley Medical Foundation’s Kris Marsh ($160,000 more).

The two executives whose pay most closely mirrored the median as defined by Charity Navigator were Robyn Myler of Aspen Film, whose $85,026 salary was just $134 less than the Mountain West median, and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Jean-Philippe Malaty, who made $413 less than the median with his $121,304 salary.

Of the 10 least well-compensated executives compared to median pay, eight reported not working a standard full-time workweek of 40 hours. The two that reported working 40 hours or more were the Aspen Community School’s Skinner and Gardner-Smith of Aspen Journalism, who made $56,000 and $46,000 less than the median salary, respectively. At least 12 chief executives of small nonprofits drew no salary at all, according to their Form 990s.

This photo from the Aspen Historical Society reveals early methods of transporting skiers around the base of Aspen Mountain. The Historical Society is funded in part by a property tax.

Archival photo / Aspen Historical Society

This photo from the Aspen Historical Society reveals early methods of transporting skiers around the base of Aspen Mountain. The Historical Society is funded in part by a property tax.

A nonprofit economic engine

Whether you believe Aspen’s nonprofit executives are too highly compensated or not, it’s hard to argue with the fact that they — through their salaries — contribute to the local economy. But the economic impact of the upper valley’s 111 nonprofits is clearly greater than just their executive directors.

“You probably have a dozen nonprofits that have double-digit employees, and a number that have five to seven. My bet is three-quarters of them have staff beyond the executive director,” said The Nonprofit Center’s Otten. “They’re employing a good number of people, and if they’re paying their staffs the same as their executive directors, there’s a fair amount of income coming to employees that’s being spent in the Aspen community.”

In fact, 541 people were employed by Pitkin County nonprofits in 2005, according to the most recent data available from the Colorado Nonprofit Association (CNA).

CNA also calculated how much nonprofits add to the economy, based on how much money was flowing into the state’s charities versus going out. The study found that organizations with over $10 million in expenses — of which the Aspen area has three — have an average total impact of $8.5 million per organization. (Think about a nonprofit like the Aspen Community Foundation, whose mission is to give grants to other local organizations.)

Nonprofits with expenses in the $1 million to $10 million range each add $1.9 million to the economy, and there are 19 of those in the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Using those guidelines, upper valley nonprofits collectively add more than $70 million to the economy.

But is Aspen as flush with nonprofits compared to other places as is generally perceived? Yes — and no. Data shows that in some ways it is, and in some ways, it’s not.

Pitkin County’s 500-plus nonprofit workers are a smaller percentage of the workforce than state and national averages. Only 3.6 percent of Pitkin County workers were employed in the nonprofit sector in 2008, compared to 5.6 percent in Colorado as a whole and nearly 10 percent nationally.

In terms of revenues, Aspen-area nonprofits are not as flush as is sometimes perceived. Colorado’s nearly 18,000 public charities brought in almost $23 billion in 2013, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. The $103.5 million in revenue upper Roaring Fork Valley nonprofits earned in 2011 accounts for about half of 1 percent of that.

And patrons of nonprofits in other ski towns known for their wealth appear to be decidedly more generous than in Aspen, especially when you include private foundations (which also carry the 501(c)(3) tax code designation).

According to Nonprofit Explorer, Aspen has two-and-a-half times the number of nonprofits than Vail does (131 versus 53), yet total nonprofit revenues in that rival ski town — $231 million — were more than twice as much as Aspen’s $108 million in 2011. Jackson, Wyo., outpaces Aspen in both number of nonprofits and revenue, according to Nonprofit Explorer. Jackson’s 163 nonprofits brought in $277 million in revenue in 2011, nearly three times as much as Aspen’s.

It should be noted, however, that Vail and Jackson are each home to one dominant nonprofit whose revenue far exceeds the others. The Vail Clinic, which operates the Vail Valley Medical Center, brought in $177.5 million in 2011. In Jackson, the LOR Foundation, a private charitable foundation, earned $185 million in revenues. Both brought in more than all of Aspen’s charities combined.

On the other hand, the concentration of nonprofits and their economic impact per capita are quite high in Pitkin County.

Nationally, there are 4.54 nonprofits for every 1,000 Americans, according to the 2012 Nonprofit Almanac, published by the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. In Pitkin County, 14.19 nonprofits operate per 1,000 people, nearly three times the national average. This could be explained by Pitkin County’s high second-home owner population: 55 percent of homes have non-local ownership. Yet, Pitkin County has about the same number of nonprofits as Eagle County, which has triple the permanent population and nearly the same percentage of homes that are not locally owned (49 percent).

Also, Pitkin County nonprofits spend far more per capita than any other county in the Northwest region, according to the Colorado Nonprofit Association study. Expenditures were $5,182 per capita in Pitkin County in 2005, compared to $3,057 in Eagle County and $2,481 in Garfield County.

Statewide, only Denver County nonprofits spent more per capita — $7,615 — than Pitkin County nonprofits did. In fact, Pitkin County nonprofits spent about double the Colorado average, which was $2,558 per capita, and significantly more than the U.S. average of $3,660 per capita.

But while the data is mixed, the experts whom we spoke with did not feel that Aspen necessarily has too many nonprofits.

Pointing out that there are a million public charities in the United States, Charity Navigator’s Miniutti noted that, “the wise charities might capitalize off of the wealth in Aspen, or maybe that wealth is helping establish some charities or fundraising. But it doesn’t necessarily look like a huge list compared to other metro areas we look at.”

The Nonprofit Center’s Otten believes that “overall as a country we have too many nonprofits, because everybody wants to do his or her own thing. And it’s hard to know exactly what some organizations do.”

“But having a rich, vibrant arts and culture community [in Aspen’s case] is a good thing,” she added, because it is a draw for tourists and second-home owners outside the very seasonal attraction of skiing.

Perusing the list of Aspen-area nonprofits, Otten found some redundancy, but overall, considering the swelling of Aspen’s seasonal population, “it doesn’t look like a lot.”

What Otten feels does deserve a closer look, however, is the quality of Aspen’s generosity.

“Are [donors] supporting services that support the community year-round, things that are vital to the well-being of the community, as opposed to just those of the arts and recreation variety?” Otten asked. “I wonder if the question is not are there too many nonprofits, but do all the nonprofits have equal access to potential donors, second-home owners? Or are those people going to go just for the ballet, for example?”

Editor’s note: This project was done in collaboration with InvestigateWest, a nonprofit investigative studio in Seattle. InvestigateWest helped develop the data charts.

One thought on “Giving big: Aspen-area nonprofits and their economic impact

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