Average pay for bosses at biggest charities rises to £170,000

27 Aug 2021 News

Average pay for chief executives at the biggest charities has risen by £15,000 since the data was last analysed in 2019. 

Research into pay at the UK’s largest 100 charities by income, to be published in Civil Society Media's Charity Finance magazine next week, shows that the median chief executive salary is £170,000.

This is up 9% compared with 2019, when the average chief executive salary at the largest charities was £155,000. In 2017 the average salary was £150,000. 

Charity Finance asks for salary figures in a biennial survey of chief executives at the largest 100 charities. For those who do not provide their salary, we use the data published in the charity's latest financial accounts.

In this year's survey, many of the annual reports were for the year ending March 2020, meaning the salary increases were given before the pandemic began.

Big earners

The data also shows that the three highest-paid bosses all work at major health charities. 

Steve Gray, chief executive at Nuffield Health, receives between £930,000 and £940,000 a year.

Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, is paid £483,000, while Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, has a salary of £410,000-£420,000.

Fifteen charity executives on the list are paid a quarter of a million pounds or more per year.

ACEVO: Pay is ‘one factor’ in attracting the best leaders

Commenting on the findings, Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders' body ACEVO, said: “Charities exist to make a difference to the causes people believe in, so it’s important to attract the people with the required skills and experience to deliver that public benefit. 

“Pay is one of a number of factors that help to attract the best people and, given the large and complex operations some charities are running, it makes sense for them to pay to get highly skilled, experienced people to run them in order to help the cause. That’s not to say smaller charities paying less don’t attract good people, but the very biggest charities pay executive salaries which are more in line with their scale of operation.”

Browning also emphasised that in most cases charity boards are run by volunteers.  

“Senior charity staff are accountable to an independent board of trustees who monitor the performance of the charity and its senior staff,” she said. 

“Senior pay levels are also set by these trustees, who are almost always volunteers. They have the responsibility and obligation to manage the resources of their charity to best deliver their charitable objectives. Employing the best possible chief executive to lead their work is an important part of that responsibility. 

“Trustees work out a fair salary to attract someone with the expertise necessary to best deliver their charitable objectives while not spending more than they need to. They then hold these executives to account to ensure they are delivering the mission and making a difference.”

The salary amounts in the data include bonuses but exclude pension contributions.

Full analysis of leadership at the UK's largest charities in the September issue of Charity Finance Magazine, which is published by Civil Society Media.

The Charity Finance Summit returns on the 7 October. The 2021 programme has been developed in response to feedback and insight from sector experts, and will deliver the most up-to-date developments in key topic areas of VAT, tax, investment, risk and strategy, alongside long-awaited networking opportunities. View the programme and book online.


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