Updated 11:02am ET
As head of the Central Carolinas division of United Way, Gloria Pace King was known as a strong fundraiser. CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports she was also a pretty good at looking out for No. 1.
At United Way, King pulled in a $380,000 salary ($379,962 with a 2008 bonus) and a $2.1 million retirement package.
The surprising truth is, while last year's compensation fell 9 percent for CEOs at for-profit companies, their cousins in the charity world were making out quite nicely. Their salaries increased on average by more than 6 percent.
In the environmental category, Wildlife Conservation Society's CEO Steven Sanderson got a $100,000 raise -- to pull in a very civilized $938,000 compensation.
Under religion, Inspirational Network's David Cerullo earned an awe-inspiring $1,580,000.
And in the children's category, Chief Scout Roy Williams retired in September 2007 with a package worth nearly $4 million.
Non-profits don't have to pay taxes. Some of them use the money for lavish executive pay instead of their mission. IRS rules forbid "excessive" compensation, but that's subjective, and the tax man isn't known for going after charities.
"They say to themselves, 'If we don't give this person $700,000, that means that the job's not important and he can't do a good job'," said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. "I mean that's the thinking, and it's appalling."
Even some small, inefficient charities are digging deep for their CEOs. One reason they get "zero" out of four stars from the non-profit evaluator Charity Navigator.
The Association for Firefighters and Paramedics spends more on their President's six-figure salary ($125,000) than on services ($107,048).
The Committee for Missing Children spends only 14 percent of its budget helping kids. The rest is spent on fundraising and administration, including the CEO's salary.
Back in Charlotte, the United Way has made some big changes.
Jane McIntyre was hired in August after King and her colossal paycheck were forced out. Although she's earning a lot less money than her predecessor, McIntyre said she's happy with the salary she has: $142,000, to be exact. But McIntyre says it's more than enough when you're in it to help others more than to help yourself.
Spotlight on The Wildlife Conservation Society
CEO Steve Sanderson ranks number 12 on American Institute of Philanthropy's 2009 List of Top 25 Compensation Packages. Here is the information from the group's Form 990's which are filed annually with the IRS.
2006: Total Compensation: $825,170
Deferred Compensation: $207,069
Expense Account, Other Benefits: $127,422
2007: Total Compensation: $832,791
Deferred Compensation: $204,149
Expense Account, Other Benefits: $138,979
2008: Total Compensation: $938,119 (Nearly $106,000 more than in 2007)
Deferred Compensation: $212,714
Expense Account, Other Benefits: $221,558
According to IRS filings, Sanderson's deferred benefits were "payable June 30, 2009."
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) says Sanderson's annual salary has been "frozen" at $506,000 since January, 2007 and that the $100,000+ in additional compensation reported for him in 2008 does not constitute a "raise" since it amounted to benefits outside of his salary. Pablo Eisenberg, Senior Fellow at Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, says that some non-profits where executive pay has come under scrutiny have turned to fattening compensating with bonuses, expense accounts, deferred compensation and pension packages. In Sanderson's case, his 2008 benefits and expense account total more than $434,000 - bringing his compensation to the reported $938,119.
WCS also provided these details:
"None of Dr. Sanderson's salary is funded by taxpayers or private donations. It is funded by earned income (e.g., income from the endowment and attendance fees)."
"Wildlife Conservation Society reported a $79,000 increase in Dr. Sanderson's non-cash compensation from 07 to 08 (but) in reality, Dr. Sanderson will never see that $79,000 because those dollars are the taxes paid directly to the government on housing owned by WCS… Dr. Sanderson does not own this apartment and must live in it as part of his agreement with WCS so he is centrally located to all of WCS's facilities. The rest of the increase… was in rising health, dental, and life insurance costs, along with pension costs and the costs of operating an automobile as gas prices skyrocket."
"The Wildlife Conservation Society has received the highest rating of Four Stars from the watch dog group, Charity Navigator, the standard when evaluating non-profits. WCS beats industry standards on accounting practices and only 13 percent of funds raised go to administrative costs. The rest goes to programs."