The general aim of any charity is to help those in need, whether in terms of a health, financial, or social issue. In order to aid more people or fund better research, charities work to collect as much money as they can. As such, charities must have a business ethic besides their charitable one; marketing their work and garnering as much financial assistance as possible. Around 20 million people in the UK volunteer their time and donate their possessions and money to help in any way they can to particular causes each year.
Recently however, there have been questions and discussions as to where and how a charity spends or should spend its money, particularly in terms of their highest ranked employees. The image of charity is not one of profiteering, particularly in times of austerity and crisis, but the actions of certain organisations in recent years have called into question its moral integrity in the sphere of business enterprise.
The average salary earning in Britain is £26,000 per year. 14 million people, a fifth of the United Kingdom’s population, live below the poverty threshold, which is a household income below 60 percent of median income. Over a quarter of children in the UK live in poverty. Last year, foodbanks provided food for almost 350,000 people, a third of whom were children. Homeless charity Crisis work to find housing, education, and employment to those without them. Shelter,another homeless and housing charity, also offers help and advice to those in need. The Chief Executives of Crisis and Shelter earn around £64,000 and £73,000 per year respectively. As of 2013, one Shelter employee earned up to £120,000, with six more earning up to £90,000. Child poverty charity Save the Children, which aims to eradicate child poverty in the United Kingdom and in some of the world’s poorest countries, paid two employees up to £170,000 and a further five up to £120,000. Of those charities that work to help the poorest members in society by providing them with food, temporary housing, or basic healthcare, it could be argued that salaries should be considerably less than they currently are.
Is it justifiable that, considering there are so many people in desperate need of basic care, charities should be paying their Chief Executives over five times the national average income? These and other poverty charities aim to reduce such ardent social inequality, yet their highest earning employees are often in the top one per cent of earners; in some cases earning more than the Prime Minister.
It is very difficult to appreciate the message that we all need to work together to solve poverty and decrease the inequality gap that the managers of these charities are putting across, when they are some of the top earners in the country and have been for a long time now. It almost diminishes the meaning and ethos of charity, which, particularly in current hard economic times for some, can be damaging to both the charity and those who are in need to its help.
Whilst Chief Executives of charities need to ensure that they can ‘stay on their feet’ economically, they must also consider the possibly damaging effect that such high salaries could have on their image and their greater impact on aiding those in crisis. In order for poverty charities to help towards solving these social problems, they have to begin to decrease inequality from within. Charity is a business; their ethos however is not for profit, but for people.
By Soila Apparicio