Average pay for chief executives at the biggest charities has risen by £15,000

Image Credit: 
Civil Society
1 September, 2021

The average salary of chief executives at the UK's largest 100 charities by income has risen to £170,000, according to the first piece of research since data was last analysed in 2019.

This represents a 9% increase when compared with 2019, when the average salary of chief executives at the largest charities in the UK was £155,000. The average salary was £150,000 in 2017.

The salary amounts in the data include bonuses but exclude pension contributions.

Charity Finance conducts a biennial survey on salary figures of chief executives at the largest 100 charities. Data published in the latest financial accounts is used for those who do not provide their salary.

The data demonstrate that chief executives of major health charities were the largest earners, accounting for the first, second and third highest paid bosses. These data were collated from annual reports ending in March 2020, meaning the increases in salary were awarded prior to the pandemic. 

Fifteen charity executives on the list are paid a quarter of a million pounds or more per year.

Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, earned between £410,000 - £420,000.

Steve Gray, chief executive at Nuffield Health, received between £930,000 and £940,000.

Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, was paid £483,000.

Remarking on the findings, Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders' body ACEVO, said: “Charities exist to make a difference to the causes people believe in, so it’s important to attract the people with the required skills and experience to deliver that public benefit. 

“Pay is one of a number of factors that help to attract the best people and, given the large and complex operations some charities are running, it makes sense for them to pay to get highly skilled, experienced people to run them in order to help the cause. That’s not to say smaller charities paying less don’t attract good people, but the very biggest charities pay executive salaries which are more in line with their scale of operation.”

“Senior charity staff are accountable to an independent board of trustees who monitor the performance of the charity and its senior staff,” she said. 

“Senior pay levels are also set by these trustees, who are almost always volunteers. They have the responsibility and obligation to manage the resources of their charity to best deliver their charitable objectives. Employing the best possible chief executive to lead their work is an important part of that responsibility. 

“Trustees work out a fair salary to attract someone with the expertise necessary to best deliver their charitable objectives while not spending more than they need to. They then hold these executives to account to ensure they are delivering the mission and making a difference.”