Charity is an Act of Love

Charity is an act of love. It is love for humanity that creates charity, although charity has become formalised and bureaucratic, which is something that love is never. In the United Kingdom there are many charities, large and small. The largest are run like large businesses and employ many people. Thirty employees at fourteen United Kingdom charities who are concerned to distribute aid outside the United Kingdom earn, from their charitable employment, more than £100,000 a year. These salaries have been criticised by the chairman of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, who himself earns £50,000 a year for his two day a week job. He asks whether these salaries are really appropriate.

Mr Shawcross is not paid out of the donations of well intentioned people. He is paid by the taxpayer to regulate charities and supervise them. It does seem odd that the widow’s mites and the collections of children designed to alleviate hunger and suffering should be, in part, used to pay large salaries.
It is important that charities are well run and that their books are in order and that they are organised as efficiently as possible. That way they can undertake greater works of charity. However, we must not confuse the charity with the folk employed by the charity. Of course many folk who work for charities do so without pay or for a pittance but high flying executives tend to work for money, and as much of it as they can gather.

On the face of it, 30 high earners do not sound like a great deal of people, but Mr Shawcross points out that less than three years ago only 19 people earned more than £100,000 a year in this sector, and it looks as though a trend has started under which the executives of charities earn not only the satisfaction of doing good works and possibly knighthoods and other honours, but a great deal of money as well.

When such facts come out there is always someone who talks about the need to attract talent to these jobs and that means attracting people by paying them huge amounts.

I am not sure that this is completely true, when it comes to jobs that are not in a profit making business but have a social or common purpose. I have noticed that the quality of what is done falls as salaries rise. For example, the quality of the programmes of the BBC falls in inverse ratio to the increases of the pay of the people commissioning and running the BBC. The more they get paid the worse the programme output becomes.

Charity is one of the few ideals that we can indulge in without causing harm; it should be done quietly, secretly and without thought of reward; if honours and money are offered they should be refused.

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