Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Do We Compare?

You don’t choose to work in the charity sector if you’re looking to achieve the highest possible salary. We know that. Just as you don’t choose to work in the City if what makes you step out the door each day is a desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

But salaries are still an ingredient that influences job seekers in the not-for-profit sector. When we surveyed our candidates in 2018, 64.4% of those already working for a charity said if they were to move, it’d be for a better salary. Whilst many are drawn to a charity job because of the fulfilment factor, over time, salary really makes a difference. No one can afford to continuously work for a less than average salary, especially if you’ve invested years in a role and an organisation.

Examining salaries from a recruiter’s perspective

Of course, salary matters to recruiters too. The charity sector can’t rest on its ‘goodwill’ laurels and assume it will keep attracting candidates because it’s the charity sector and people will accept less because of ‘a good cause’.

Not least because charities are under greater pressure and more scrutiny than ever before. There’s a constant need to deliver more for less. The digital revolution has affected how every single business area operates, while the cashless society, together with the implementation of GDPR, have transformed the nature of fundraising.

So can charity salaries compete with the private and public sectors? Are we able to attract and retain talent armed with the skills needed to deliver the best service for our beneficiaries in the digital age?

According to our 2019 Charity Sector Salary Report, created in conjunction with charity recruitment specialists Harris Hill, our sector is holding up here. It shows a steady demand for skills, healthy recruitment figures and salary and benefits packages edging upwards—particularly for those all-important digital, data and IT skills.

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Paying the going rate for in-demand roles

Registered charities with a sizeable workforce are generally paying the going rate for skilled employees. And where charities are pulling in talent from outside the sector for those in-demand digital roles, they’re prepared to pay more to get them.

Average salaries in the sector compare well with the latest national averages given for equivalent roles by organisations like Glassdoor and Total Jobs. They’re pegged at around the middle with smaller charities paying slightly less than the large ones.

So, to pull out some examples:

Marketing Assistant

  • Average UK salary: £21,258
  • Charity sector salary (small charity): £20.5k-£25.5k
  • Charity sector salary (large charity): £22k-£27k

Marketing Management

  • Average UK salary: £42,761
  • Charity sector salary (small charity): £34k-£40k
  • Charity sector salary (large charity): £30k-£46k

Head of Communications

  • Average UK salary: £61,520
  • Charity sector salary (small charity): £40k-£50k
  • Charity sector salary (large charity): £46k-£60k

There will, of course, be many private and public sector organisations paying way above the averages given here—and these figures, in any event, don’t include bonuses (which are generally not paid in the charity sector).

charity sector salaries

The whole benefits package

Candidates are drawn to our sector for the benefits packages on offer. In particular, flexible working which is no longer seen as a “nice to have”, but as a deal-breaker. It’s expected and is a point of difference from public and private sectors which are seen to be lagging behind in this respect. In fact, candidates who aren’t being offered that flexibility are far more likely to turn down roles for a better offer. They expect the charity sector to be good at this and it’s seen, alongside a desire to find a more fulfilling career, as a driver for candidates to move into the sector.

Well written, accurate job ads and job descriptions together with prompt replies at every stage of the process matter to candidates and where a charity can’t afford to compete on salary, doing these things well can make all the difference.

How does the average charity sector salary compare with the average UK salary overall?

The report is based on a sample of over 38,500 advertised posts paying at, or above, the Real Living Wage. When you compare these salaries with the average UK salary then it’s a healthy situation – equivalent pay for equivalent roles.

But if you look outside the parameters of the report and include jobs paying less than the Real Living Wage, then it’s more complex. The average charity salary being £25,000 (Bright Network), compared to £36,500 for the UK overall, according to the Office of National Statistics.

However, as ACEVOs Charity Today 2017 overview of the sector says, charities ‘come in a vast array of different shapes and sizes—everything from local groups led by volunteers to complex and sophisticated international development or research organisations.’ Given the huge number of very small charitable organisations, this will have seriously skewed average figures for the sector. So, by focusing in this report on only those jobs that pay at least the Real Living Wage, we’re more likely to be judging like with like in terms of role and organisation.

charity salaries compared with uk overall

The importance of maintaining salary increases in line with other sectors

Overall, the 2019 Charity Sector Salary Report is encouraging. It shows that average salaries for professional roles from entry-level, to senior management, to CEO compare well with comparable roles in other sectors—but don’t exceed the average.

Charities are reaching out to other sectors for the most in-demand roles (particularly in data and digital, along with the IT jobs that support them) and are looking outside of the sector for those hard-to-fill fundraiser vacancies. The report shows that they’ll pay more for these and will look at transferable skills.

It’s encouraging to read that we’re keeping up on salaries. While our survey in 2018 showed that only 26.7% of candidates actively looking for a job in the sector were motivated by money, they’ll not stay if they’re not paid the going rate. They can’t afford to. If we don’t maintain pay levels in line with other sectors, charities will fail to move forward as diverse organisations able to operate at the highest level—and provide the best value for their beneficiaries.

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About the author

Jean Merrylees

Jean Merrylees is a freelance content writer and editor who has previously written for the BBC. Jean is now taking her first steps into the charity sector after spending some time writing for both Diabetes UK & CharityJob.