Mark Flannagan: Marie Stopes' chief executive bonus is obscene

Doubling the already large salary of a chief executive does nothing to build trust in charities

Mark Flannagan
Mark Flannagan

The only word for the chief executive of Marie Stopes receiving, on top of his salary of £217,250, a "bonus" to bring his total package to £434,500, is obscene. No matter how important your organisation’s mission, I cannot see how anyone can justify almost doubling what is already an extremely large salary for a charity boss.

This "bonus" was paid alongside £409,000 in staff redundancy payments at Marie Stopes, in a year when the charity’s income rose by £700,000. Consequently, the increase in income pretty much solely funded more money for the chief executive of the charity and allowed staff to be made redundant.

This is a disservice to every charity worker trying to explain to donors why they should part with their money.

The justification that Marie Stopes had its "highest annual impact to date", evidenced by delivery of access to contraception globally, is simply not good enough. In other words, by the hard work of teams across the globe, using all the significant resources Marie Stopes has, the charity has done its job.

As a result of the whole team doing their jobs, the already highly paid chief executive is given a very large sum of cash. I would like to know how many other staff, further down the chain, received such significant bonuses. How many administrative staff saw their salary packages almost double in a single year?

In recent years the charity sector has struggled to justify fundraising practice and has taken a massive reputational hit because of appalling abusive behaviour by some people against vulnerable beneficiaries and female staff.

Despite this, charities must continue to be on the side of good against the vested interests of these people and against those whose sole motivation is profit.

It doesn’t help this challenge when a trustee board of a charity that delivers a lot of its work in poorer regions of the world hands a bonus to its chief executive that, to many of those beneficiaries, would represent a life-changing fortune and to many charity staff would represent the size of their mortgage.

I cannot conceive how anyone working in a charity can be comfortable with such a huge annual bonus. Surely the sensible response to this is to turn down any offer and insist the money be used for the charity’s services?

It is time we had a grown-up debate about what constitutes a reasonable reward for running a charity: one that should not be a race to the bottom, but should give way to an understanding of just how wrong so-called "bonuses" are in the sector and advocate for them to be stopped.

Mark Flannagan (@MarkFlann) is a former charity chief executive who now works in the NHS

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