There has recently been a report that Amnesty International are going to have to lay off a large number of staff because they have got a shortfall in their income and have spent too much trying to raise money that never materialised.
Amnesty International paid four members of staff £100-110k in 2018. It also paid one person £80-90k and seven members of staff £60-70k. This means that twelve members of staff earned more than £60k in 2018. This was a 100% increase on the year before - when six staff in total who earned more than £60k. Data is taken from their most recent submitted accounts to the Charity Commission at the time of writing this article.
An article in The Guardian newspaper last year included quotes from the Unite union talking about the high Salaries paid to a bloated management team at the charity, with a large number of senior managers earning six figure salaries.
We first looked at the salaries paid by Amnesty back in 2014 during a study into high salary levels being paid to executives in the Charity Sector. Amnesty International were, in terms of their size, one of the worst offenders for paying what were clearly much higher than expected salaries to senior management.
Let’s face it. It’s very likely that most of the managers and higher earners at Amnesty are administrators in the sense of they will be managing day to day running of the charity.
Amnesty International is not a large charity and its purpose is to campaign for prisoners around the world, safeguarding human rights and protecting free speech. Quite a lot of the work is centred around supporting prisoners of conscience by encouraging members of the public and members of Amnesty to contact foreign and domestic governments in support of prisoners who are incarcerated courtesy of their expression of opinion or belief.
It is highly possible that the salaries being paid have been through one of the various salary committees that charities have set up to determine what constitutes fair pay for their executives. The Charity Commission themselves set up a committee back in 2015 to look at executive pay in the charity sector, and the committee was basically made up of senior members of large charities. The conclusion was pretty much as one would anticipate in that they concluded the salaries they were all getting paid were more than reasonable and competitive with other sectors.
What Amnesty and various other committees and people setting the salaries within the charities fail to appreciate I think, again and again, is that the charity sector is there to collect money from the general public and to undertake charitable work.
The sector is not there to generate an income, make huge profits, generate excessive funds, sell anything and then justify paying a large salary to maintain this level of income, rather than concentrate on their charitable aid.
Furthermore, quite a few of the larger charities including Amnesty are based in London and one would imagine that a good number of the senior management are linked or friends with senior management level workers in other sectors including the banking industry, the legal profession or the medical profession, and no doubt they are aware that salaries in those sectors are high compared with the rest of the country.
It is regrettable that perhaps there is not legislation out there to firstly regulate high salaries in the charity sector and secondly to regulate the way charities spend their money. Location of head offices could be a first consideration..
If for example Amnesty International were based in a small market town in the north of England with lower cost rent, prices of property and general salaries being lower, it would surely result in the costs to the charity being considerably lower than for a charity based in Central London. Would it be cheaper for anyone who needed to go and meet with potential donors or to undertake political campaigning simply to jump on a train and be paid the train fare rather than the charity be situated in a high wealth area and therefore spend considerable amounts of money both on salaries and on day to day running? Would a commission set up by the Charity Commission perhaps be better placed to tell charities where they should and shouldn’t be spending money, and if they do decide to go with a central location in London (as an example) then perhaps give guidance on the impracticalities and wasteful expense of charitable giving to achieve this?
There is always a danger with the charity sector that it is slowly turning into an industry. This is despite perceptions of the general public which generally is still that charity is good and giving money to good things is a great idea. What we have seen over the years from our work looking at charity accounts - this is not always the case.
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising Solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment provides online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search our Vacancy Database.