ROUGH NOTES: Where to draw the line?

L: Your argument that the current media stories will hit the incomes of the big NGOs assumes that the general public read the papers! This is an interesting idea but ultimately I’d be surprised if it makes much of a difference. I think it would contribute to a general disillusionment with charities – but few would remember the details of exactly what the red cross paid as opposed to MSF (for example). 

I: That is thoroughly patronising. If the general public don’t read the papers then I don’t know who does?! Supposedly news outlets epitomize the supply demand curve – papers sell more if the news is more appealing to the general public, and so the papers won’t print wanted isn’t of interest (and hence read) by the public. Plus, there are previous movements that show the media can have a big influence on public behaviour i.e. the Nestle baby milk scandel, the increase of organic products on supermarket shelves, the proliferation of skinny girls . . .

J: That’s a fair point. However, the number of times where media coverage has led to change is massively outweighed by the number of times when it hasn’t. And I stand by my belief that, in six months time, if you survey 1,000 people not one of them will be able to tell you if the head of the Red Cross gets paid more than that of Save the Children.

I: Let’s see what happens.

J: In the last couple of paragraphs, you’re completely right to say that there is no real ‘objective’ idea of what a reasonable wage is – past a fairly low minimum. (See here for an example of what this low minimum might be – thanks @Chris_Goulden.) So our idea of a reasonable wage is indexed to that of our peers. The peers of the charity CEOs may be making £200,000, £500,000, or more annually. Does that justify them getting the same? I don’t think so. I think we have some idea that the charity CEOs is getting some non-monetary reward, which effectively justifies paying them below the market rate. This might be the fact that they’re working in a sector they care about, or that they get to feel like they’re doing something good at the end of the day. In either case, I think the metaphor of the supply/demand is actually an inappropriate one. If the CEO is picking positions in order to maximise their wages, then they’re the wrong person for the job. They should be picking the position because they want to make a difference.

H: Size of the charity must be part of the consideration?  Perhaps benchmarking within the third sector/development sector would be a good starting point?  Charity Commission would be well placed to do this – if they don’t already?

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