How To Ask For A Pay Rise At A Charity

4 minute read

Asking for a pay rise isn’t something anyone finds easy. It’s even harder if you’re the type of person who’s chosen to work for a not-for-profit organisation for the cause, not the cash. To do good and make a difference.

And in smaller charities, there can be a painful awareness that every penny counts. Asking for more money can feel just wrong.

However, simmering frustration isn’t good for anyone. Not you, your boss nor the charity. So if you’ve considered asking for a pay rise, here are some tips to help you get started.


Why do you want a pay rise?

That may sound daft. Who doesn’t, after all? But be ruthlessly honest with yourself. A pay rise needs to be based on your worth to the organisation, your market value and what you’ve achieved in the job.

If you have doubts about any of these things, it may be time to think about making a move instead. Have you considered a career-shift to look for jobs in other areas of the organisation that pay better?

Or is it time to look elsewhere? It’s an unavoidable truth that some charities can afford to pay more than others, so there’s every chance you could continue to invest your time in making a difference, but for a charity that has better prospects for pay and career development.


Organise your thoughts

But if it is a pay rise—not a move—that’s in your sights, then take time out to organise your thoughts and plot your approach.

Have you achieved your objectives? Are you working over and above expectations? What more can you offer?  What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Professional achievements? Aspirations? What ideas do you have to add value?

Rack your brains and write it all down in priority order, with examples. Be clear in your own mind about what you’ve achieved in the last year and why it justifies a pay rise now.


What are you worth?

Research your market value in similar organisations.

Speak to recruiters and get a steer on what you could earn elsewhere in the charity sector for your role. What’s the going rate for your skills and experience?

You need hard facts to show why you’re worth more to the organisation.

How To Ask For A Pay Rise At A Charity

“Show me the money”

Know your numbers and come with a figure in mind. Keep it specific (a range usually doesn’t work) and make it slightly higher than you’d accept, so there’s some wiggle room. Make sure you can support it with evidence of market value and be prepared to talk through your achievements.

However, bear in mind who you’ll be talking to and the culture of where you work.  Playing hardball is probably not appropriate and could backfire.



You’ve done your homework, now take the time to practice. Even if it’s just you at home talking to the mirror, it makes all the difference.

For some strange reason and for many of us, asking for more money is emotional. If you’ve done the prep and you’ve practised, you’ll handle this better.



Be proactive and set up the time and place yourself. Avoid the busiest periods (of the week, or year) and use your common sense and knowledge of your boss to fix a time when they’re likely to be more receptive to this kind of discussion.

If there’s a set time of year for appraisals and pay reviews, it’s better to have this meeting a few months earlier so they then can then consider your request before they fix budgets.


Plan B

Is there a Plan B that leaves you with something – rather than nothing? If they reject your request on the basis that your skills and achievements aren’t yet up to the required standard, how can you get there? What can they offer you in terms of training or career development? Is there a timeline you can work towards?

And if, as is sometimes the case with small charities, they simply can’t afford to pay you more, how can you use this discussion to achieve a positive outcome?

Are there skills you can develop or projects you could be assigned, that will help you go on to develop your career elsewhere whilst supporting the charity’s work in the meantime?

Or are there flexible working benefits that could also be beneficial.


Note it all down

Take a note of key things discussed and capture them in an email afterwards, so there’s a record of what’s been agreed.


We want your conversation, regardless of the outcome, to be a valuable one. So here are a few things you should avoid doing so that the discussion isn’t too heated, emotional, aggressive or too blame-worthy, risking a defensive reaction from your boss.

  • Time it wrong.
  • Arrive full of pent-up frustration or resentment.
  • Bring up personal reasons why you need more money.
  • Focus on what colleagues earn (or you’ve heard/think they earn).
  • Issue an ultimatum. Unless you’re prepared to take the consequences.


To Sum it Up

So, be confident and have a specific objective. Stick to the facts and stick to what’s relevant to you alone. You may need to compromise, or you may be unhappy with the outcome in the short-term, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have left an impression. So, make sure it’s a good one.

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.

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