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January 8, 2023

Executive Compensation at the American Heart Association (2021)

by Anne Paddock

The American Heart Association (AHA) is one of the most popular and recognized non-profits in the United States with enormous public support that raises about $800 million annually and has more than $1.1 billion in net assets.

By most accounts, this organization is a magnet for public contributions and an expert at raising and saving money.  But, are they accomplishing their mission, which is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke (especially with hundreds of recipes on their website calling for eggs, dairy products, beef, poultry, pork – including bacon, a Type 1 carcinogen according to the World Health Organization, oil, sugar and white flour)? With heart disease the number one cause of death in the United States for decades, one has to wonder if all the contributions to the AHA are really helping to prevent and reverse heart disease?

The AHA has 25 independent voting members (board members) on its governing body (Board). 18 of the 25 (72%) are male while 7 of the 25 (28%) are female. Note:  The Form 990 does not disclose gender. Determinations were made based on name and google searches.

In 2021, revenue totaled $804 million with the primary source contributions, gifts, and grants.  Expenses totaled $694 million (including $15 million in depreciation) with compensation as the largest expense for AHA.

3,647 employees received $352 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $97,000.  798 employees (received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 12 most highly compensated employees reported to be:

  • $2,289,308:  Nancy Brown, CEO
  • $  726,312:  Leslie Upton, COO
  • $  653,142:  Larry Cannon, CAO, Corporate Secretary
  • $  637,494:  Midge Epstein, EVP Southwest
  • $  580,613:  Mariel Jessup, CHF SC/MED
  • $  551,665:  Kathleen Rogers, EVP Western States
  • $  544,545:  John J Meiners, Chief – Mission – Align
  • $  512,337:  Kevin Harker, EVP Midwest
  • $  469,166:  Tanya Edwards, EVP, Southwest
  • $  466,062:  Nicole Sapio, EVP Eastern States
  • $  454,668:  Cynthia Roberts, CFO
  • $  337,803:  Rose Marie Robertson, Deputy CHF SC/MED

The 12 employees listed above were compensated $8 million, which equates to an average compensation of $750,000.  9 of the 12 (75%) most highly compensated employees are female while 3 (25%) are male.

The most highly compensated employee is Nancy Brown, who received $2.3 million in compensation in 2021; and more than $8 million over the past 3 years:

  • 2021:  $2,289,308
  • 2020:  $2,517,493
  • 2019:  $3,474,435

AHA paid for first class travel for the CEO, and the officers and board members.

AHA paid for companion travel for spouses or companions of officers of the organization.

AHA made gross up payments and tax indemnifications. See Schedule J, Part III, Supplemental Information on the Form 990 for more information.

AHA paid for health or social club dues or initiation fees. See Schedule J, Part III, Supplemental Information on the Form 990 for more information.

It is important to point out 211 independent contractors received more than $100,000 in compensation with the five highest reported to be:

  • $9.3 million:  Production Solutions, of Vienna, VA for direct mail marketing
  • $8.2 million:  Freeman Co, of Dallas, TX for audio/video
  • $6.3 million:  Orora Visual, of Mesquite, TX for printing
  • $3.8 million:  Crispin Porter Bogusky, of Boulder, CO for marketing
  • $3.3 million:  CDS Global, of Des Moines, IA for donation processing and management

In summary, AHA, employs about 3,600 who are compensated about $350 million annually.  The CEO receives about $2.5 million annually (although she received $3.5 million in 2019).  AHA paid for first class travel, companion travel, health or social club dues or initiation fees, and made gross up payments or provided tax indemnification.

But, what is more disturbing is that this tax-exempt non-profit raises nearly a billion dollars annually, has more than a billion dollars in net assets and yet, heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the USA.  Although AHA has been operating for nearly 100 years, maybe its time for the organization to re-direct their efforts to knock heart disease off as the top killer in America.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2020 for the year ending June 30, 2021), click here.

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