Pay rises for charity comms staff lag behind wider economy, report finds

15 Feb 2023 News

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Charity communications professionals were paid 1.2% higher salaries in 2022 than in 2021, according to a new report, lower than average rises for employees in the wider economy.

The survey by CharityComms and Charity People found that most (62%) respondents worked beyond their contracted hours, a higher proportion than the year before.

Men continued to earn more than women in most charity communications roles, with an average 9% pay gap for director roles.

Four-fifths of respondents said job adverts not showing a salary discouraged them from applying while almost all said they expected flexible working conditions.

Real terms decrease in pay

The Salary and Organisational Culture Survey 2022 found the average salary for charity communications workers rose by 1.2% to £39,390 compared to 2021. This is a larger increase than the previous year’s 0.8% rise to £38,909

But earlier this week the Office for National Statistics reported 6.7% annual pay rises among British employees in October to December 2022.

And according to the Bank of England, inflation averaged 9.1% between 2021 and 2022, meaning average pay for charity communications staff in 2021 would be worth £42,449 in 2022.

Adeela Warley, chief executive of CharityComms, said: “We know that many charities are facing huge financial pressures as they respond to the cost-of-living crisis. However, it is very disappointing to see how far comms salaries are falling behind and we urge charities to reflect the true value of professional communications so that we can attract and retain the best talent."

Some 74% of the 790 survey respondents received an increase in earnings with 8% citing a cost-of-living payment as the reason.

Half of the respondents received a salary increase, up from 41% in 2021, but only 14% received promotions, compared to 24% the year before.

Some 48.7% said they expected their salary to increase over the next 12 months, while 39.7% expected it to stay the same. Only 1.6% expected their salary to decrease and 10% said they did not know whether it would change. 

A responding manager for a medium-sized charity said: “The sector needs to pay enough to attract best candidates. These salaries are too low for anyone struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. We are losing good people to the private sector.”

Over half are working more than they should

People are continuing to work beyond their contracted hours (62%) due to stretched resources. This is up by 7% on the year prior, according to the study. 

A survey respondent and head of communications at a large charity in the Midlands said: "We're victims of our own success - more awareness, more demand, no more resource. Internal HR processes are incredibly slow so we're consistently over stretched."

Some 35.2% cited an increased workload due to other factors, an increase of 12.1% from 2021. 

Not only that, 32.5% ticked the box “I find myself working more because I work from home and log on more”. 

Warley, chief executive of CharityComms, said: “The cost-of-living crisis has thrown many of the people we serve into real hardship and that this in turn has increased demand for our services and staff workloads. We must move away from normalizing the culture of over work and that means modelling the behaviours we wish to see in others. Warm words will simply not do.”

Men continue to earn more than women in the charity sector 

Only two job levels saw females having a higher average salary than males – head of and senior executive/senior officer roles. 

The three remaining titles, director, manager/lead and executive/officer paid men more. For example, the average salary for a male director at a charity was over £65,000 compared to almost £59,851 for a woman in the same position – a difference of over 9%.  

One survey respondent, who is head of communications at a large London charity, said:  “As a single parent with a high workload I find it hard to balance wanting to work for a charity with the need to look after my children and pay my bills.”

97% expect flexible conditions as part of future job 

Some 97% of respondents said they expected flexible conditions as part of a future job. Meanwhile, 8.9% said that flexible working might make them want to look for a new role and 8% said remote working. 

The most cited reason was a higher salary which 14.2% voted for. 

Flexible working hours remained the most valued benefit by respondents at 10.9%.  Some 22% say they are working from home full-time while 85% say they miss the social aspects of working in person. 

Nick Billingham, managing director at Charity People, said: “The risk of losing talent to businesses with an increased sense of purpose across other sectors is very real – an issue which I am sure we will see transpire increasingly over the course of 2023 unless we see a real commitment to intentional action focused on pay, benefits and workload.”

Listing salaries as ‘competitive’ discourages people from applying

Showing a salary as competitive or not showing it at all would discourage 80% of respondents from applying, the survey found. 

Not only that, 16% said a degree listed as a job requirement would be more likely to stop them from applying. 

Some 75% said they use LinkedIn to search for jobs compared to 64% last year. 

Meanwhile, 82% of respondents said they use sector-specific job boards to find a new role. 

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