Charity chiefs should not be paid the same as private sector, survey finds

More than half of respondents say charity executives’ pay affects decision to donate

Simon Scriver of fundraising training company Total Fundraising said Rehab Group chief executive Angela Kerins (above) would earn more if she was working in the private sector. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Simon Scriver of fundraising training company Total Fundraising said Rehab Group chief executive Angela Kerins (above) would earn more if she was working in the private sector. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 21:14

Senior management of charities should not be paid the same as those in similarly sized private sector companies, a new public opinion survey shows.

In the survey commissioned by Fundraising Ireland, the umbrella group for professional fundraisers, just 38 per cent of respondents said senior charity staff are entitled to similar pay as their private sector counterparts. Just over half of respondents said that the amounts charity executives were paid would affect their decisions to donate.

“This research shows us that we expect the private sector and the non-profits to exist using two different rule books,” Fundraising Ireland chief executive Anne Hanniffy said.

Ms Hanniffy said there was a “strong reaction” to the idea of charity workers “making money to help others”, while there was not this reaction to people in the commercial sector “who make huge money but are not helping others”.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes also found that more than 94 per cent of people said it was vital for charities to be well run, with three-quarters of people agreeing that charities should be staffed by the best professionals.

Ms Hanniffy said the findings suggested those working in charity should do so for altruistic reasons, but altruism, she said, did not always produce the best results.

“We believe charities should be measured by their level of achievements, not just their overheads.”

She said while the charity sector welcomed transparency, people were “fixated” on chief executive salaries. “Let’s be more fixated on what charities are achieving, on the return on investment and how many people are being helped.”

Criticism of charities

Asked if charities needed to do a better job communicating their achievements, she said charities also got criticised for spending money on public relations and marketing. With 25 per cent of respondents saying they would not have donated unless promoted by a campaign, she said: “We have to tell our story and what we are doing, and if we do that we get more money in and we can help more people.”

She said while there were too many charities in some sectors, more competition was driving charities to be more efficient. She also welcomed the proposed implementation of the Charities Act, which will require charities to have appropriate financial and management controls.

On charitable giving, she said research showed 85 per cent of Irish people had given in the past three months. While praising the generosity of Irish people, she said more than 60 per cent of those donations were made through church-gate and on-street collections. Planned giving such as direct debits enabled charities to plan and achieve a greater impact, she said.

Addressing delegates at Fundraising Ireland’s national conference yesterday, Simon Scriver of fundraising training company Total Fundraising said while “people ask questions about how [charities] are run, in the private sector they don’t ask those questions”.

He said of “newspaper reports” that Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins “drives an Audi” and “earns €234,000 a year”: “If she was in the private sector she’d earn 22 per cent more.”

He added: “You should be looking at the impact we have before you judge us.”

He said people expected Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fly first class because he’s in the private sector.

“We accept that in the private sector, we don’t in the charity sector,” he said.

A spokesman for Rehab said the charity runs six commerical businesses, and that it was these which fund Ms Kerins’s salary, not the charity itself.