Readers' Letters: Charities need the best people, and that means paying them well

Save the Children
Save the Children

Charities need the best people, and that means paying them well

I cannot let Jimmy James's letter about sector pay go without challenging the confused messages and assumptions it contains (April, page 7).

As a non-executive director in the NHS who has chaired numerous remuneration committees, I understand the difficulty in balancing expectations of how the public expects money to be spent and the level of pay and reward that will attract the best possible people.

Like a health system, the voluntary sector needs people who do a great job and are prepared to go that extra mile simply because it matters. If we don't get the best possible people to run and work in our charities, we will not be providing the best possible service to our beneficiaries and, more importantly, we will not be getting the best value out of every donation.

It is a completely false economy to make a judgement, as James does, that the only people who should work in the charity sector are those prepared to make financial sacrifices. Of course, it would be inappropriate to pay corporate-level salaries, but why should it be described as "repugnant" for Save the Children, which operates in more than 120 countries and probably has many thousands of staff, to be paying 184 people more than £60,000 a year? Just look at the responsibilities those staff must have for lives, budgets and staff - and then look at how much more someone of less responsibility would earn in the commercial sector.

Earning £60,000 a year is way above the average wage in this country, but these are not people who are swigging champagne in their penthouse flats. If we follow the sackcloth and ashes approach, we will surely end up with a sector populated with people who have inherited wealth, assets from previous careers or high-earning spouses.

If we want to attract the best people, we have to offer a vibrant and rewarding working environment with great career opportunities and realistic rewards. It is insulting to the sector's professionalism to suggest its workforce is full of hypocrites.

Valerie Morton, Fundraiser and consultant, Cambridge

There's no room for complacency in the fight to retain public trust

Debra Allcock Tyler argues that "the idea that public trust and confidence in charities is threatened because there have been a few ranting politicians or some overblown media stories isn't backed up by evidence" (April, page 66).

In fact, robust evidence from a range of sources, including Ipsos Mori, New Philanthropy Capital and nfpSynergy, shows that charities cannot afford to be complacent about current levels of public trust and confidence.

Far from "running scared because of bad PR", charities should be facing up to their critics. To do this, we need to be ready with a coordinated and considered response, to get better at highlighting the work charities do and to know what the data tells us about trust in our sector. These are all issues that the Understanding Charities Group will take on in the coming months and years.

Alan Gosschalk, Chair, Understanding Charities Group, and director of fundraising, Scope, London N7

Potential givers respond to positive messages – not guilt

A lot of what Jen Shang says about appropriate fundraising asks and the feel-good factor is spot-on (April, pages 28-30). As director of fundraising for Arthritis Care in the 1990s, I demonstrated that positive messages are a more successful way of retaining supporters.

Similarly, any major gift fundraiser worth their salt knows that giving can be transformational for both giver and recipient when the relationship is positive.

My research at London South Bank University into the nature of philanthropy shows a strong correlation between continued and increased giving as a result of positive messages and appropriate reinforcement from the charity. The term "philanthropic psychology" is helpful, because fundraisers need to understand what motivates giving, rather than rely on messages that make givers feel guilty.

At a conference some years ago, I talked to the academic Adrian Sargeant about a paper he and Shang had written about philanthropic psychology. "I wish I'd thought of that," I said; to which he replied, much as Whistler did to Oscar Wilde: "You will, Peter, you will."

Peter Maple, Lecturer and researcher, London South Bank University, London SE1

Straightforward and honest is better than intimate and warm

I could not disagree more with Stephen Pidgeon about personalised thank-you letters (April, page 43). I cringe when I receive such a letter from someone I've never met.

What I want is straightforward, honest communication: a nice thank you, an indication of what has been achieved and, perhaps, a suggestion of what still needs to be done. I do not want the sort of "intimacy and warmth" that professional fundraisers try to force on me. And, judging by the responses to a recent questionnaire sent to our supporters, I have a strong suspicion that they would endorse my view.

John Burton, chief executive, World Land Trust, Halesworth, Suffolk

Please send letters to or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE

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