Brits think charity exec salaries too high, spending too murky - poll

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 5 March 2014 04:18 GMT

Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the GSA Austria company's headquarters in Vienna, on July 22, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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Charities should be more open to fight erosion of trust if attacks by media and MPs continue, says thinktank chief

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Four in 10 Britons think charities spend too much on executive salaries and more than a third of the public say charities are not transparent about how they spend their funds, according to a poll by a thinktank.

Twenty-nine percent of the people interviewed for the survey commissioned by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) said charities spend too much money abroad and should focus on issues closer to home. A little more than a quarter said charities spend too much on running costs, and 23 percent said charities were delivering public services that should be provided by the state.

Fundraising methods were also criticised with 29 percent of people saying charities put too much pressure on people to donate. The use of charity fundraisers to accost members of the public in the street for donations is so despised, it is called "chugging" or "charity mugging" in Britain.

However, perceptions of the charity sector were not all gloomy.

One in three Britons say their views towards charities have become more positive in the last three years despite attacks from politicians, media commentators and philanthropists, NPC said.

In December, BBC's Panorama current affairs programme revealed that millions of pounds donated to anti-poverty charity Comic Relief had been invested in funds with shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms.

As part of its wider investigation into charity finances, Panorama also cited evidence suggesting Save the Children censored criticism of energy firms, to avoid upsetting corporate partners. 

The exposé came months after the Telegraph newspaper revealed the number of charity executives earning 100,000 pounds ($166,685) or more a year had risen to 38 - a 72 percent increase from 2010 to 2012. Topping the list of charity executives who are paid more than Prime Minister David Cameron was British Red Cross Chief Executive Sir Nicholas Young, who was paid 184,000 pounds in 2012.

However NPC's report noted that the average charity chief executive salary in 2013 was 60,000 pounds - less than the 66,000 pounds earned by members of parliament.

Charities could address public distrust by better explaining their role and the decisions they take, NPC chief executive Dan Corry said.

"For example, charity boards should be more vocal about the principles on which they have based a CEO's pay, a perspective that was largely missing from the recent debate," Corry said in a statement.

"Not all charities are perfect and the sector must be open about this, but many of the comments made about the sector are unfair and misleading. If the sector can work together, it will be in a stronger position to withstand any erosion of trust it might yet suffer should the attacks by the press and MPs continue."

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