The Other Side of Grimm by Jon Hansen

Posted on May 20, 2015


A colleague recently asked me the following question; will those who oppose NIGP’s Chief Executive Rick Grimm be annoyed because my coverage may not have demonized him as they had hoped?

It is an interesting query on many levels.

To start, I think it is safe to say that this story overall is frustrating to many regardless of which “side” one may or may not be on. This being said, it is unlikely to make a difference in terms of Grimm’s future. At least this is the opinion of one of my numerous sources.

Their reasoning is fairly straight forward. Despite the fact that he has led the organization to profitability for 4 consecutive years, the fact that the NIGP was so badly embarrassed publicly is more than enough justification/incentive for him to “get the boot”.

But here is another perspective on this story.

While Grimm must certainly shoulder his fair share of the responsibility for #CodeGate, and all that it entails, he did not act alone or in complete isolation.

For example, let’s look at his annual compensation.

At some point in time, someone, somewhere had to both know what he was being paid and approved it. Whether or not said approval came in the form of an overt endorsement or a silent acquiescence, is irrelevant.

This latter point was actually driven home over the weekend when I received a message from one of the four NIGP officers I had originally contacted regarding their role in approving Grimm’s salary.

Originally I could not understand why, when asked the question “were you aware of Grimm’s salary and if you were, did you approve it?” they offered either a no comment or asked that I forward it in writing so that they could take the time to answer correctly. Mine was after all, a fairly straight forward question. You either knew about his salary or you didn’t. There is no need for deeper contemplation of a response.

However, and once again, after reading the recent message I received from one of the Officers, a light bulb went off. Their answer has it turns out, has far reaching implications that extended well beyond the NIGP itself.

From a career standpoint, these individuals are senior people. They are the leaders towards whom an up and coming generation of procurement professionals would likely turn for advice. They hold responsible positions, and as a result are involved to varying degrees with contract negotiations and the overall development and implementation of their organization’s procurement policies and practices. In short, they need to be both thorough and vigilant. Herein lies the reason why mine, was not as “simple” a question has I had first thought.

If they for example knew about Grimm’s compensation, upon what basis did they approve said salary (and expenses)? As experienced procurement professionals, surely they would have done their homework and confirmed the going rate for a nonprofit CEO to perform their duties?

Obtaining this information is relatively easy, as outlined in my April 30th post in which I referred to a 2013 Charity Navigator Study on executive compensation. Had they looked at that study, they would have seen that given the NIGP’s size and revenue, Grimm was being paid between $80K to $100K above the average pay that the nonprofit CEOs of similar organizations receive.

Even though the perception of procurement has evolved to one of recognized strategic importance, there still exists (or persists) the old purchasing mindset that getting the lowest cost is a reflection of one’s ability to do their job.

It is at this point that a response becomes a little more “complicated”.

If they approved Grimm’s salary and can’t justify it, is this a reflection of how they perform their daily duties in their full time job? They certainly can’t say that they made their decision in a vacuum, or that they did not have access to comparative data.  After all, it took me less than 10 minutes to source and review the Charity Navigator Study.

Ironically, if they had also checked to see what nonprofit CEOs from other associations within the procurement world were being paid, it might have actually helped them in that Grimm’s compensation was at the low-end of the pay scale. Especially if you take into account that some of the other CEOs were receiving up to $450K despite their organizations being in the red.

Similar questions of diligence and/or competence are also raised if they claim that they were not aware of his compensation package.

This brings us back to my colleague’s original question about demonizing Rick Grimm.

At the end of the day, I could only investigate and report the facts. I had and have no vested interest in the outcome in terms of wanting to prove that Grimm was either good or bad. I am sure that those who opposed Grimm did not expect me to research nonprofit salaries as well as the salaries of other procurement association CEOs. But I had to, otherwise my coverage would have been incomplete, inaccurate and unfair.

However, and beyond any questions surrounding his salary and expenses, the future of Rick Grimm is secondary to how the NIGP will deal with the lingering problems that still remain. The Parthenon – Periscope relationship, including the latter’s continuing stewardship of the code, is a serious concern for many. The source of the NIGP’s revenue stream has also raised red flags, as have the association’s overall governance procedures. Even if Grimm goes, any new leadership will have to deal with these as well as other issues.

Getting rid of the current Chief Executive – who once again is as much an author of his present situation as any outside forces – may seem like a simple and clean response. However, what is on the other side of Grimm should be the focus of the NIGP.

Leaping Into The Unknown

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