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Less than half of public think charity CEOs should be paid

Fewer than one in two people agree with charities paying their chief executives, according to a new poll. The results also reveal that the public are still confused about who is actually paid in charities, with many thinking presidents, trustees and patrons draw a wage.

The study, conducted by research consultancy nfpSynergy, shows that only 48% of people think charity CEOs should be paid, with a quarter against the idea and another quarter unsure. 32% also said directors should be unpaid, while over half agreed that patrons (58%) and trustees (53%) should remain unpaid roles.

People were also divided over whether a charity’s frontline staff should be paid. Half (50%) said street fundraisers should not be salaried and many said tin collectors (60%) and charity shop helpers (53%) should also work for free.

The research, conducted with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people, also revealed that there is still plenty of confusion over who charities pay. Nearly two thirds think presidents get paid and 16% think patrons do too, although neither is.

The public did seem fairly clear on several positions however, correctly identifying CEOs (80%), directors (75%) and charity shop managers (72%) as paid positions. Confusion remains over roles like street fundraisers (35% vs. 40%) and trustees (31% vs. 31%).

  • 26% of people think that charity CEOs should work for free, 32% said the same about directors (slide 3)
  • Around half said patrons (58%) and trustees (53%) should not be paid, along with street fundraisers (50%), tin collectors (60%) and charity shop helpers (53%) (slide 3)
  • Confusion still reigns over many positions: 64% thought presidents were paid, 16% think patrons do (slide 2)
  • They correctly identified CEOs (80%), directors (75%) and charity shop managers (72%) as paid, but remain divided over streets fundraisers (35% yes, 40% no) and trustees (31% yes and 31% no) (slide 2)

Bijal Rama, Research Officer at nfpSynergy said:

“The public will always be divided on this matter and that largely stems from misconceptions and a disinterest in how charities work. Over 1,000 of the UK’s charities have an annual income of more than £10 million and running a charity comes with a lot of responsibility, so you need to pay to get the best person for the job.

"That said, I don’t believe that most of the public really care how much charity staff are actually paid. All they want to be reassured about is that most of their donation is going to the cause. By making it clear how much they spend and how they spend it, charities will be well placed to keep the support of their donors.”


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