Charity chiefs’ fury at survey on voluntary sector pay

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NfpSynergy says the survey shows the onus is on charities to change the public's perception of staff by highlighting the work they do

SCVO and ACOSVO say the latest NFP Synergy report will do more harm than good

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6th May 2015 by Paul Cardwell 1 Comment

Charity chiefs have blasted a survey which claims less than half of the public think voluntary sector chief executives should be paid as sensationalist and undermining the work of the sector.

The survey by London based research consultancy NfpSynergy claims only 48% of people think charity chief executives should be paid, with a quarter against the idea and another quarter unsure.

However, John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) questioned the purpose and validity of the research.

Speaking to TFN, he pointed out NfpSynergy only spoke to 1000 people across the UK and that there is no indication of the level of knowledge those respondents have of the work of the voluntary sector in the UK, let alone Scotland, adding the survey was likely to do more damage than good.

“Far from providing useful insight for the third sector, NfpSynergy’s latest survey and the lazy, sensationalist news headlines it will generate in certain parts of our media, will do little other than fuel ongoing attempts by the UK government to undermine the ability of charities to take them to task and to speak up for the most vulnerable people in our communities by gradually chipping away at people’s trust in charities,” he said.

NfpSynergy’s latest survey will do little other than fuel attempts by the UK government to undermine the ability of charities to take them to task

“Like senior jobs in any other sector, the level of pay needs to reflect the responsibilities attached to the post.

“But we really need to focus our efforts on encouraging members of the public to judge charities on the positive impact they make instead of obsessing over salary and other running costs.”

As well as looking at attitudes to chief executive pay – the survey also looked at frontline staff.

Half of respondents said street fundraisers should not be salaried and 60% said tin collectors and charity shop helpers (53%) should also work for free.

The survey also found confusion over the public perception of who does get paid working for a charity.

While 80% recognised chief executives as being a paid position, nearly two thirds thought charity presidents received a salary and only 35% thought street fundraisers were paid.

Pat Armstrong, chief executive of the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO), said organisations had to pay staff to ensure they get the best candidates, adding the survey may make people question a career in the sector.

She said: “It’s incredibly important to have excellent third sector leadership in Scotland. How else do we ensure that our organisations are run effectively, our people are well led and our organisations have the biggest impact possible for those who need our support?

“We also have to think of the pipeline of future leaders coming into the sector.

“Many young people when leaving education say that one of the things they want to achieve is to make a difference in the world – what better way to do that than a career in the third sector. 

“We should be making it easier for them to do so – not making them question whether it is a serious career option.”

Rob White, marketing and PR manager at NfpSynergy, agreed chief executives should be paid and said what the survey actually highlighted is that charities need to do better at telling the public about the work they do.

He said: “Charities do great work and this benefits huge numbers of people. Of course staff need to be paid, and as we've said before, to get the best people you have to pay.

“Great staff, particularly dynamic and insightful chief executives, can add much more value than the money they cost. 

“What this research shows is that charities are not doing enough to demonstrate the impact great staff have and to criticise the survey is just burying heads in the sand.

“If more people were aware of the impact of great charity staff, they wouldn't be saying they shouldn't be paid.

"If charities are open about salaries and explain who they pay, how much and why, they'll be very well placed to keep the public's trust and support."

11th May 2015 by stephen moreton

We appear to be getting in a muddle... It seems to me that Npf Synergy and doing their job and we're doing our job. The overlap in their job and our job, is arguably the extent public's perception of our organisation encourages people to be involved as supporters and volunteers etc. If we judge paying staff isn't undermining this then 'keep calm and carry on'. If not, then we can address this potential inhibitor. It doesn't mean don't pay, just communicate why you do.