Good Causes

The sticky issue of charities and wages explained

Warning… This may be a controversial post so do not read if you suffer from high blood pressure, are expecting a child, own a cricket bat and know where I live.

You’ve run a marathon, you’ve done a bake sale, you’ve shaved your hair off and you’ve pestered people with donation pots. Now you send all that hard earned money into the charity of your choice and sit back knowing that your effort has gone directly to cleaning water, providing shelter, getting girls into education or, my own favourite, looking after donkeys.

As a professional writer I have a variety of clients, law firms, estate agents, surf websites, newspapers, myself… of course, and charities. Now, here is the interesting thing when you say:

“I volunteer for a charity.”

This suggests you do things out of the kindness of your heart, a sweet and generous person who puts themselves before others, a veritable hero and in some lights, that might just be a halo hovering over your head.


“I work for A charity and get paid.”

This suggests that you’re a cold hearted bastard who is trying to steal food out of children’s mouths, rip shirts from refugees backs and piddle in the only well in the village, just for shits and gigs and, in certain lights, are they not horns poking from under your fringe?

Well… I work for a charity and I get paid.

I can hear you gasping from here. What? Kind and sweet Olz, the timid adventurer? The jester from Leicester?
It’s true, all of it… Well, I don’t actually have a fringe. This blog article deals with the rather sticky issue of being paid to work for a charity and, I do have to point out, these are merely my views and I’m very open to yours so please comment after you’ve finished reading.

Take a shiny pound coin. ideally that little nugget would be pushed into a little hole and, somewhere in the world, a wonderful thing would happen. It would rain, the blind would see again, the ravages of war would vanish and donkeys would be one sterling pound happier.

And this is what, as charities, we have to make you believe. It’s a fairytale we sell. We want you to believe that every drop of sweat you shed, every relative you annoyed and every singed eyebrow from that bake sale has been £100 percent effective in solving the issue you care about.

Take our pound. It was put in a pot. It was cashed in and went into the charities bank account, where, please look away if you get upset easily, it seased to exist, it dissolved into the mass. All of it’s pennies sloshing together with all the other pennies.

Now what? well this is the thing, and you’re not going to like this… Charities are businesses. I know, it sounds horrible. Business is run by fat cats and charity is done by sweet giving people. As, with most things in this world, the truth is somewhere in between.

The difference between a ‘for profit’ business and a ‘not for profit’ is purpose. A ‘for profit’ might sell you a gadget, food, clothes or maybe a life sized model of a t-rex. A ’not for profit’ business will sell a solution. It will see a problem and it will generate revenue to solve that problem.

They are both still businesses and, as such, businesses have to run and therefore they need staff who, yes, we’ve come to the point of this blog, need to be paid. As lovely as the feeling of ‘doing good’ is, it doesn’t put a roof over your head, food on the table or any of the other things that you expect to be able to afford from working in any job.

Yes, people could work for free but, you know what? The charity would fail. Volunteering is escentail for any charity, don’t get me wrong, but a volunteer can screw up, they can sleep in, they can quit and they are not accountable to anyone apart from their own conscience. You pay a member of staff and they can do none of those things. It ensures the longevity of the charity, it means it can run like a business and continue to provide the solution and continue to help people in what ever way that charity’s mission statement says.

So please continue to volunteer, make a difference. Support causes close to your heart because they are important, they change the world.

Such industrious machines need managing and maintaining and that takes time, it takes a lot of time. Be comforted that when the limelight fades, the hordes of volunteers scurry away to the next fashionable cause, we’re still here, we’re still doing good work and fighting the fight because it’s our job..

What are your views? Is it okay for people to be given a wage when working in a charity? Under what conditions should this be allowed?