This morning’s Daily Telegraph is reporting on salaries paid to top executives in a number of leading charities, including Tear Fund and Christian Aid. You can read the numbers here.
It raises various questions such as whether it is acceptable for an organisation that depends on charitable donations to pay its leader a six figure salary or whether it is acceptable for an organisation that is working with some of the world’s neediest to be paying large salaries.
And there is that well-worn debate about whether it is better to donate to charities with lower overheads who manage to get a larger proportion of their income directly to the field. That is a wider issue.
With regard to salaries, charities will wish to argue that they need to pay reasonable salaries if they are going to be able to attract the best qualified people to the job. As the old saying goes, ‘if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.’ No doubt, also, if some of these executives were working in the private/corporate sector, some of them would be earning even more.
What to make of it all? Should donors boycott charities who pay salaries above a certain amount? Should executives be expected to offer their skills and experience at a greatly reduced rate?
And do explicitly Christian charities come into a category of their own? Given that their work is seen as an outworking of their faith, what aspects of biblical teaching should be brought to bear on how they operate?
The Bible does teach that the worker deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5 – where the context is local church leaders). At the same time it warns prospective church leaders not to get involved in leadership as a way to make money. While a Christian charity is not a local church, how does its salary structure reflect a path between these two aspects of biblical teaching?
What kinds of accountability should there be for a Christian charity, its board and CEO? How do they relate to the church? At the end of the day a Christian CEO is answerable to God for how he/she spends whatever salary is earned, whether it is 50k or 100k. None of us looking on knows what such an executive does with his/her salary: how much of it goes on some form of compensating for a family who accepts long hours and stressful phonecalls from a disaster zone at 3 a.m.; how much even gets ploughed back into charitable work.
Feel free to chip into the discussion here – especially if you have experience in the sector.