Much of public opposes paying charity leaders

Joe Saxton of nfpSynergy

Much of public opposes paying charity leaders3

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 20 Feb 2013

More than half of the public are against paying trustees and a third are against paying charity chief executives, according to new research from nfpSynergy.

nfpSynergy quizzed some 1,000 people on their attitudes to paying charity staff and found that the general public is still not completely sure about who is paid in charities.

While over 70 per cent of respondents knew chief executives, directors and charity shop managers are paid, only half (51 per cent) correctly identified street fundraisers as paid.

And a third think that charity trustees are paid, but only 14 per cent think they should be, with more than half (54 per cent) against it.

A third thought chief executives should work for free, while 39 per cent believe directors shouldn’t take home any pay.

nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton said: “I don’t like this research because it shows the majority of the public don’t want to pay trustees, when for me a charity should be able to decide for itself whether to pay trustees. nfpSynergy should still publish research whether it supports my views or not!

“I wonder, however, if the paid CEOs who happily say trustees shouldn’t be paid because of public trust will take any notice of the public’s reticence to pay CEOs. If paying trustees is bad for public trust, why isn’t paying CEOs and other directors? The reality is that the public is generally sceptical about paying charity staff at all, let alone at high salaries. We as a sector need to work harder at explaining why senior staff in charities should be paid and those like me who believe that charities should be able to choose to pay their trustees need to redouble our efforts as well.”

Last year, as part of the Charities Act 2006 review, it was proposed that charities with incomes of more than £1m should be allowed to pay their trustees without permission from the Commission. But minister for civil society Nick Hurd rejected the controversial proposal.

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Mike Wade
Director of Fundraising and Communications
20 Feb 2013

Joe - are you happy that the quesion was framed in such a way as to gain a meaningful response? As ever I guess it depends on the nature of the question you are trying to answer. If you really want to understand society's considered views you would ask the question very differently to if you simply want to uncover existing perceptions.

Qra X
20 Feb 2013

I think this research demonstrates the level of ignorance of the general public when it comes to the charity sector more than public attitude towards the specific issue.

The high proportion of respondents thinking that CEOs should not be paid suggests that they do not perceive a charity CEO job as, well, a job. I can't imagine that 1/3 of people would agree with a more general statement: "I think that some people, working full time for formal organisations in positions of responsibility should work for free" as it is clearly nonsensical.

I have come across this kind of views several times. Every time, after a longer conversation, it was clear that the person holding them did not understand that charities employ people who carry out 'normal jobs'. After some explaining they would usually take one of two positions. 1) Embarrassed 'Oh, I did not know that this is how it works' 2) Angry 'This is disgusting, if this is what charity means there should be no charities'.

Alex McLachlan
Senior Consultant
20 Feb 2013

I think level of "public opinion" that charity CEOs should not be paid demostrates the lack of understanding about what it takes to run a charity of any size and particularly some of the large donor charities.


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