Charity Commission chairman issues charity pay warning

William Shawcross William Shawcross questioned whether high salaries were "fair" to donors and taxpayers

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Large salaries paid to charity staff could "bring the charitable world into disrepute", a regulator has warned.

Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross said organisations must ask if pay levels are "really appropriate".

The Daily Telegraph reported 30 staff at 14 leading UK foreign aid charities were paid £100,000 or more last year.

Charity leaders' organisation Acevo said the salaries for these "very demanding jobs" were not excessive compared to other sectors.

Mr Shawcross, who was appointed last year on a £50,000 annual salary to work two days a week, said the commission could not tell charities how much they should pay their executives, but urged them to be cautious.

"In these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities," he said.

"Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute."

'Very demanding'

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young was paid £184,000 last year, two Save the Children executives received more than £160,000 each and Christian Aid chief executive Loretta Minghella was paid £126,072.

The number of staff being paid more than £100,000 at the 14 charities it focused on had risen from 19 since 2010, the newspaper said.

Start Quote

We can't - and shouldn't - compete with salaries in the private sector but we need to pay enough to ensure we get the best people to help our work to stop children dying needless deaths”

End Quote Save the Children

The British Red Cross said the pay of its chief executive was far from secret and its annual accounts were available on its website.

"The salary of our chief executive - which is set by the Board of Trustees, and benchmarked against, and competitive with, other non-profit organisations of similar complexity - reflects the enormous responsibility the position carries," a spokeswoman said.

A Save the Children spokesperson said: "To run an organisation that reaches 10 million children in more than 50 countries, with thousands of staff, in some of the toughest places in the world, takes real leadership, experience, knowledge and skill.

"Without this talent we would not, in the past five years, have almost doubled our income from £161m to £284m, enabling us to reach more of the neediest children on earth than at any point in our 90-year history.

"We can't - and shouldn't - compete with salaries in the private sector but we need to pay enough to ensure we get the best people to help our work to stop children dying needless deaths."

Christian Aid said "staff must reflect a large variety of abilities and disciplines" for the organisation to run successfully.

Dame Barbara Stocking, a former chief executive of Oxfam who was paid more than £100,000 a year, said she took a 30% pay cut from her previous NHS job to take up the post with the charity.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "These are very demanding jobs, very long hours. The range of the business you cover, from a retail network in the UK to international situations, are hugely complex."

'Deeply unhelpful'

The 14 charities make up the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which co-ordinates work after disasters overseas.

A spokesman said executive pay at its member organisations was "broadly in line" with other charities.

"To ensure the most effective use of appeal funds, a balance must be struck between minimising overheads and ensuring a robust management system is in place," he said.

"The proportion of DEC appeal funds that can be spent by member agencies on the UK management of their disaster responses is capped at seven per cent."

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Mr Shawcross's remarks were "deeply unhelpful" and "wrong".

He said the average salary for a charity chief executive was £58,000 and the higher salaries were "entirely justified".

Sir Stephen Bubb: "Chair of Charity Commission is being deeply unhelpful"

"The big national and international charities are very demanding jobs and we need to attract the best talent to those jobs," he said.

"I know some of the people who are on these so-called excessive salaries who have taken pay cuts to run a charity."

Sir Stephen denied the high salaries could put off donors.

"This simply isn't an issue for donors. Donors are more concerned about the outcomes, the performance and the efficiency of these organisations," he added.

Every charity in England and Wales is required to publish how many members of staff earn more than £60,000 and their accounts are publicly available on the Charity Commission's website and on most charity websites.

"Many charities go further than the minimum requirements for reporting staff salary levels," a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said.

"We would always encourage donors to use this information when making decisions about who they wish to give to and to help them understand the complexities of running any charity in the 21st century, but ultimately it is for all charities to explain the decisions they make about all forms of expenditure."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    An hypothetical example: an aid charity spends £5m feeding destitute people in a famine zone at 70p per meal. A skilled professional with salary, NI and pension costs of £78,000 is able in that situation to make it 3% more efficient. Whether or not that salary is justifiable is one question, but in that situation the ultimate beneficiaries are better off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    Help for Heroes is under investigation as they have paid out over £6 Million in "administration & Wages". Surely this is not mentioned every time they have a fund-raising event. NO charity should ever consider this as a fair amount to pay staff when it is for CHARITABLE benefit, not to swell their staff's bank accounts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Worked alongside some of these charities whilst serving in the army in Kosovo and Sierra Leonne. They spent most of their time driving around in aircon 4 by 4's, the main priority was getting back to their exclusive hotels as early as possible.The fact is in most cases the local people would always turn to us for assistance as we were on the ground 24/7, they could relate to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    Whilst it's true that large complex organisations need skilled people to lead them, charities' upper management can't simply dodge the strain that exists between asking people to give of their time, effort and money freely whilst paying large sums to themselves. Paying yourself six figure salaries whilst also taking the widow's mite, simply isn't going to fly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    I would not say I am against charities, but there are a lot of self-serving and undeserving charities out there - Private schools, donkey sanctuaries, people collecting for family members to climb Everest., etc.
    IMHO the paying your taxes is more important than giving to charity and that is why I am so dead against gift-aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    essexash , why should these people earn more money than the prime minister when most work only 2 to 3 days a week , and I know of one who works only 3 days a month due to other directorships ?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    I worked for a charity knowing I was not going to be paid and I undertook the assignment because I wanted to help individuals less fortunate than myself. Today so many people start charities simply to drawer a high salary. For those that say high wages are required for it's leaders, then I challenge you to put all your leaders on gardening leave to see if the organization collapses around you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    604.Blistering Blast of Truth
    I have called my wife at work and will forthwith stop the £ 100 per month direct debit to the charity's we have both had for almost 9 years ( stopped ) not one more penny piece. until action is taken disgraceful theft.
    Well done for putting your principles before money! Oh wait....

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    CHARITY .... the practice of benevolent giving and caring....hmm,who to.
    I stopped giving to charities a couple of years ago,when it became obvious that the amount given,and passed to the appropriate donors was far,far less than the amount put into that little box.When one puts coinage into the 'slot' the kind hearted giver is paying for a decent living standard to the exec's of a given charity!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    £100,000 a year? I suppose the chuggers will have to work overtime to sign up the 4,167 people willing to donate £2 a month to save the poor donkeys in Turkmenistan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Pay is the tip of the Iceberg. Do a search on Google Maps for charities on City Rd in the City of London. Some of the most expensive office space in the world. Any charity that can afford £1,350 per square foot per annum doesn't need my help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Thats why I support Injured Jockeys Fund and the Lifeboats, It is not syphoned off by fatcats in offices with deep pile carpets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    "Having worked at a charity and getting a 6 figure some /.......... / I have a PhD btw."

    They paid you a 6 figure sum and you have a PhD and yet you don't know the difference between "some" and "sum"?!?!?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Man on massive salary preaches about others on massive salaries...

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Its just a route for them to get trained at such high MBA level for free and after they leave with their cert to these banking employment.An average cost of MBA as at 2001 to 2004 will be £45000.00. Charity orgs do not need high level management training. An MBA staff should come from voluntary chaps who have retired but not an porsche guy looking for good times in the city.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Interesting that registered charity 1120920 had an income of over £40m but spent just over £3m (about 8%) on charitable activities and £0.7m on governance.

    Contrast with registered charity 209603 who's income was a staggering £175m! Of this £116m (67% ish) spent on charitable activities - fair enough - yet only £0.53m on governance.

    The figures make for interesting reading...

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    So you put your money in a tin expecting it to go where it's claimed will benefit the cause collected for, only to have it go into salaries. What a great scam. Perhaps we should all try it. You don't have to produce anything, you don't even have to pay some of your lower staff (volunteers) only promise them a good reference. This is why I don't contribute except to animal charities, PDSA etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Same old story---let greedy people loose with public money and they will take as much as their grasping hands will hold.
    LR's comment 272 says it all---charities are now a lucrative business,with,as usual,"executives and directors" being paid lots to do very litte.It does not take a degree to decide how to allot money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    So enraged by this snout in the trough, disgraceful trousering of vast amounts of donated cash, and the utterly insulting excuses posted on here by the supporters of these cappos ! I have called my wife at work and will forthwith stop the £ 100 per month direct debit to the charity's we have both had for almost 9 years ( stopped ) not one more penny piece. until action is taken disgraceful theft

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    592 blondie
    Exactly. We've given to children in need for 25 years but pudsey bear still hasn't had an operation on his eye!


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