Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Much has Changed?

6 minute read

Recruitment has changed, for one thing. It’s a candidate-driven market in the charity sector just as it is everywhere else. Jobseekers are bringing more skills to the table and expect to be compensated for their expertise. But what does that mean for not-for-profit organisations where the salaries on offer have traditionally been lower than in the private and public sectors?

Historically, people have accepted that salaries in the charity sector will be a bit lower; the trade-off being the feel-good factor that comes from contributing something positive to the world. And the flexibility the sector has to offer is definitely a bonus.

But with more and more charities looking to invest in candidates with that oh-so-important digital savvy that can push their organisation forward, are salaries, in turn, adapting as well? According to the latest Charity Sector Report, the answer is ‘yes, but slowly’.

Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Much has Changed?

An overview of salary trends

Given the pressures on our sector right now, it’s good to read in the 2019 Charity Sector Salary Report of a steady demand for skills, healthy recruitment figures and pay and benefits packages either holding up or starting to go up for specific in-demand skills.

It’s good also that this latest report shows trends broadly in line with previous years—not least because it’s the first time Harris Hill has collaborated on the report with CharityJob. By joining forces, they’ve increased their sample from over 3,000 vacancies to over 48,500 vacancies—and yet the data gathered shows trends in keeping with those they’ve spotted in previous years.

So, whilst there aren’t any huge surprises, the detail of the report gives invaluable insight into what’s influencing salary and benefits packages across the sector; from the smallest voluntary organisations to the big-name brands.

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A quick note on the Real Living Wage

It’s worth noting that Harris Hill and CharityJob have only included jobs in their report that offer at least the Real Living Wage—as opposed to the National Living Wage which is generally accepted to be too low to keep a person above the poverty line.

However, it’s really important to acknowledge that overall the charity sector falls short here. In 2017, the Living Wage Foundation found that 26% of charity workers earned less than Real Living Wage. The report suggests some improvement. In May this year, there were more than 1,030 UK charities (up from 800 charities in 2017) paying every employee the Real Living Wage as a minimum. It’s a 28% increase and can only be good news. However, given that there are over 168,000 registered charities in England and Wales alone, there’s clearly a long way to go.

Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Much has Changed?

The impact of salary on recruitment and retention

In 2018, CharityJob surveyed over 800 of their registered candidates about their motivations for finding a job in the charity sector. Of these, only 26.7% who were actively searching for a job were motivated by a better salary, while 75.4% were looking for a career that could provide more fulfilment.

Still, bear in mind that when CharityJob then asked what would make them consider leaving their current job in the sector, 64.4% said it would be for more money. So, whilst people don’t move to the sector for the pay alone—job satisfaction alone clearly doesn’t pay the bills.

Ultimately, people expect to be paid for their progressions and their commitment. Charities that don’t reward long-term employees with better salaries are less likely to retain the talent they worked so hard to land.

So, the question remains, are we doing enough to not only attract talented new employees but also to keep the ones we already have?


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The key benefit: flexible working

One of the biggest draws the charity sector has for potential employees is the opportunity for flexible working. Not everyone can work the traditional 9-to-5 office hours and being able to fit your job around other commitments is a huge benefit that not enough for-profit companies are ready to offer.

As little as a year ago, flexible hours and remote working in our sector still tended to be optional extras—but that’s no longer the case. It’s gone from ‘often requested’ to ‘fully expected’ across nearly all areas and functions in the sector. As a result, more candidates are starting to turn down jobs if flexibility isn’t part of the 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.

Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Much has Changed?

Digital skills are at a premium

This year, Marketing and PR roles came close to Fundraising as the busiest area for recruitment and that’s down to the ever-increasing demand for digital skills—which are now integral to every role in this field.

The key investment for most charities is improving the user experience so that anyone engaging with the charity gets a fully-joined up service—whether it’s through their website, app or through their social media channels. Our cashless society and the imperative to seek and develop new ways of giving has an impact here too, with charities looking to digital to provide new ways of giving through their online channels.

It’s a sign of how important it is that digitally-driven roles are increasingly offered as permanent positions—only 6% of paid digital roles posted on CharityJob last year were temporary.

That being said, project-based and short-term digital transformation roles are still relevant as charities overhaul and redevelop their existing sites. Content creation is key and these jobs can be freelance—though day rates are increasingly popular and at around £200 a day this can be too expensive for some charities.

Not surprisingly, charities may have to look outside the sector for candidates with these skills—it’s all about finding the best person for the job. As a result, we’re seeing a slight increase in salaries around positions that manage digital channels. It’s not a massive change, but things are moving in the right direction, with salaries for marketing and digital management jobs improving in larger charities from a band of £32k-£44k in 2018 to £40k-£47k in this latest report.


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Fundraising is still the busiest area for recruitment

Finding good fundraisers has always been the hardest part of charity recruitment and this year’s report shows that’s not changed.

As a result, salaries are being nudged further upwards for fundraising roles with candidates typically moving every 18 months to two years—because they can. Smaller charities that can’t afford the best people are advised to concentrate on improving their whole recruitment process—from more informative job descriptions to better and quicker communication at every stage. Making sure the candidates feel wanted and that they’ll be invested in.

Major Donor Fundraisers and Trust Fundraisers jobs are identified as the hardest of all to recruit for but there’s some optimism that it’s getting fractionally better as charities become more open to talent from outside the sector with transferable skills.

Salaries in the Charity Sector: How Much has Changed?

Data and the impact of GDPR

GDPR is changing the way modern organisations function, and now, more than ever, it’s vital to have in-house specialists that understand how data needs to be handled. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is coming down hard and setting examples, and the charity sector hasn’t been untouched, with charities reporting 137 data breaches in the second quarter of 2018/19. So, it’s no surprise that data management and data analyst roles are in high demand.

New to this year’s guide are Compliance Managers and Data Protection Officers, two roles that have substantially increased in number over the last year. As these roles require such a specialised expertise and skillset, they’re likely to make up to 13% more than general IT Managers. Data roles are often filled from outside the sector by people who’re aren’t necessarily there because it’s a charity or a cause they feel strongly about. They’ll move between sectors and move jobs often. However, the report identifies that some charities are trying to combat this by providing learning and development opportunities to improve retention.

The ongoing growth of data and digital teams has led to a consistently high demand for IT staff who can support the new systems. Whilst IT salaries for the most senior jobs are in line with jobs of the same seniority across the organisation, more junior and entry-level IT jobs tend to be better paid than entry-level admin jobs in other teams.

But it’s not just IT departments that are seeing the effects of GDPR. For fundraisers, these restrictions have made the task of researching and approaching wealthy donors more challenging. Because of this, Major Donor Fundraisers are seeing slight increases in pay because of the extra level of work now required to do their job.


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Ultimately, the key takeaways from this year’s Salary Report are positive. The report highlights where salaries are edging upwards—Marketing, Data, Fundraising and IT being the key players. And, as a sector, we’re leading the way when it comes to providing the flexible working opportunities that people now expect, and which enable a healthier work/life balance as well as improved retention rates.

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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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