Average salary among top 100 highest charity earners up by 20 per cent

A Third Sector study of top executive pay in the sector finds the average salary went up from £212,500 in 2015 to £255,000 this year

The average salary among the top 100 highest earners in the charity sector has increased by 20 per cent in the past two years, a Third Sector study has revealed.

The senior executives who made the top 100 in the 2017 study earned an average of £255,000, compared with £212,500 in 2015. The median pay level rose to £185,000, compared with £165,000 two years ago.

The increase can be attributed mainly to a number of exceptionally large salaries paid in the past financial year. The Wellcome Trust, the highest-paying charity in this year’s study, paid its top earner between £3.05m and £3.06m last year after the medical research funder’s investment portfolio performed strongly. The figure was more than three times the previous highest salary of £1m identified in the 2013 study, which was paid by the charitable hospital the London Clinic.

The hospital and fitness centre Nuffield Health was the second-biggest payer in the current study, awarding its highest earner between £1.25m and £1.26m.

Third Sector compiled the top 100 list after analysing the annual accounts of the top 150 charities by income. The accounts of a number of smaller charities known to pay high amounts were also analysed as part of the study. It includes all types of charities, including general charities, school and education providers, independent hospitals and professional bodies.

Fourteen of the top 100 charities paid their highest earners more than £300,000, compared with 12 in 2015. Thirty-seven charities paid more than £200,000, compared with 32 in the 2015 study.

General charities occupied the highest number of places (40) in the top 100, but they paid the least. On average, the highest earners working for general charities received £186,000 and a median of £165,000.

A number of well-known charities did not make the top 100 list. Oxfam, which has an income of almost £415m, paid its highest earner between £120,000 and £129,999 and was 126th in the list. The RSPCA, Unicef UK, WaterAid and WWF-UK paid less than £140,000 and do not feature in the top 100 either.

The average salary paid across the top 100 is more than five times higher than the average salary most charity chief executives receive. A study by the charity leaders body Acevo, published in January, found that the average annual salary among its members was £50,000, £5,000 less than it found in 2015.

Andy Hillier, editor of Third Sector, said: "This year’s study indicates that a small number of registered charities are awarding their senior executives the types of salaries more common in the private sector. The use of bonuses has also become particularly prevalent among the very highest-paying charities.

"However, the majority of household-name charities that are generally the subject of complaints about their pay levels appear to be exercising restraint. Their highest earners receive considerably less than those working in other parts of the charity sector, despite many general charities arguably running far more complex organisations.

"This brings into question what types of organisations should be considered charities in the modern age and whether the existing charity register requires reform."

Subscribers can read the full analysis here.

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