Fair Pay for Charity Work?

It’s something a lot of non-profits don’t want to talk about, but Ronn Torossian says that option may no longer exist. Sooner or later, every charity will have to explain why they give their employees a proper living wage… or why they do not.

In a recent article in The Guardian, it was reported that only about 1% of charities have registered as living wage employers. It was not clear in the article if that statistic only applied to the UK, but it is true that the registration is voluntary and many other non-profits may pay a decent wage without disclosing it. However, it’s fairly clear that this issue is a problem in the charity workplace as a whole.

In the UK, the living wage is defined as a number that “is the minimum needed for a basic standard of living covering an adequate level of warmth and shelter, a healthy palatable diet, social integration, and avoidance of chronic stress.”

Now, all jokes about a “palatable English diet” aside, it is telling that some social benefit organizations provide for others what they cannot or do not offer to their employees. Worse, they are asking these employees to do the actual “providing.” Similar to the cliche of the waiter who cannot afford to eat at the restaurant where he works or the store clerk who cannot afford to shop there, this is somewhat worse, in that people are choosing to give while simultaneously being deprived of basic human necessities.

Again, it’s tough to say just how widespread this issue may be, but there is no doubt that it’s a ticking timebomb for any non-profit trying to maintain a tight budget and deliver optimum services. And it may be legitimately difficult to pay people what they “may be worth” in any given job based on the sometimes staunch standards donors have for charities which they support.


Sooner or later, someone is going to ask why they have it worse off than the people they are helping. If you don’t have an answer, it’s likely those employees will go looking for one … in public.