Fund charities better to boost sector pay, local groups argue

07 Sep 2022 In-depth

Grantmakers and commissioners should take into account low sector pay when funding charities, local groups have said.

This comes after Pro Bono Economics found that charity sector workers earn 7% less per hour than the wider economy.

The National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) said charities needed funding to cover all costs, including appropriate pay for their staff that reflects their job roles.

Meanwhile, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) said it was lobbying for fair pay to be fully incorporated in public sector commissioning processes.

One local charity manager also suggested that a pay scale for charity workers could help to close the gap with other sectors.

NAVCA: ‘Charity staff need to be paid an appropriate wage’

NAVCA said that charity staff should receive salaries that reflect the level of their job roles. 

Maddy Desforges, chief executive of NAVCA, said: “It’s important that charities are properly funded to meet all their costs, including the full costs of staff salaries which reflect the level of the job role and responsibilities.

“Charity staff need to be paid an appropriate wage, with security beyond short-term funding. This is going to become more pressing over the next few years as charities make sure they are supporting staff through the cost-of-living crisis and heightened inflation.

“Funders need to take this into account with flexibility and due consideration in how they manage funding agreements.”

Charity workers deserve financial security

Charity workers should not face a lack of financial security “for supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society”, said the executive officer of a charity for children and young people in west Wales.

Gill Byrne’s charity, RAY Ceredigion, has 13 employees but she is the only full-time member of staff, running the charity’s HR, finance, marketing, monitoring, for which she is paid £30,000 per annum.

She said she is “quite frankly, exhausted.”

“If you divide my salary by the hours I work I am probably the lowest paid employee in the charity”, she said. 

‘Call for a charity sector pay scale’

What would help this disparity, Byrne argued, is if large funders could agree to a charity sector pay scale as salary costs are “pretty much always the largest factor in any funding bid”. 

“I think we need a sector pay scale agreed by the agencies that is matched against areas of responsibility that the large and smaller funders agree to accept,” Byrne said.

“This would remove the anxiety I and others in my position have about increasing salary costs, pretty much always the largest factor in any funding bid, to what we would be worth in private or state employment.”

However, Ruth Marks, chief executive of WCVA said her organisation does not have the authority to set sector pay scales.

But she said: “We are interested in all ideas that can help the voluntary sector get through these challenging times.

“In Wales we are asking Welsh Government to write to local authorities, health boards and other public sector providers to insist that there is fairness and parity in any pay or inflation increases for contracts delivered by voluntary and public sector providers.

“We’re also asking for fair pay to be fully incorporated in commissioning processes.”

‘14.1% of third sector workers are on a wage that doesn't meet living costs’

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, did not respond to the suggestion of a sector pay scale but agreed with Byrne's sentiment that pay should be improved in the charity sector. 
"We welcome attempts to improve pay and conditions in the charity sector. Our own research has shown that 14.1% of third sector workers are on a wage which doesn't meet actual living costs.

“During a cost-of-living crisis, it is more important than ever that organisations to pay their staff a wage rooted in the cost of living.”

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