With so much talk about inflation in general, more specifically the upcoming public sector pay rise and whether the increase will be above the inflation rate, I thought I’d take a look at charity sector pay over the last five years to see how it compares.

Using a combination of our own data collection and archived job adverts from Third Sector, Charity Job, The Guardian, I started to build up a picture of salaries for different job types in different locations.

It very quickly became apparent that I’d bitten off waaaaay more than I could chew. So, I made the following decisions to try and make the task a little more manageable:

  1. In an effort to simplify things, I thought I’d stick to fundraising in London. It was still too much, so I simplified it further to just ‘officer’ and ‘manager’ level jobs, then just ‘manager’ jobs – I’ll stick the rest on the back burner for future blog based ramblings.
  2. In an attempt to make things as comparable as possible, I only used roles advertised directly by charities. I used the upper end of a salary banding, if one was advertised, and measured the mean of the middle 80% by year to ignore outliers.
  3. I used the Bank of England inflation calculator to for the math.

My efforts generated this:

Mean Salary Inflation-Adjusted Salary Difference on national inflation
2016 £35,200 £35,200
2017 £37,739 £36,461 3.51%
2018 £37,421 £38,999 -4.05%
2019 £38,211 £38,381 -0.44%
2020 £38,023 £38,784 -1.96%
2021 £39,364 £40,025 -1.65%


In this example, the inflation-adjusted salary has been taken from the previous year, if you ignore the intervening years and calculate what the salary would be (if it kept in line with inflation) until August of this year you’d expect the mean to be £40,481 which is -2.75% under the inflation rate over the five years.

So, it seems charity sector pay (in this very specific example) does consistently fall behind inflation. I’m not sure what happened in 2017 for there to be such a big jump, a cynic might say it was because that was an election year so more money was given to the third sector to boost the perception of the incumbent government. That would also explain the drop the following year and the boost in pay in the following 2019 election – but that’s pure speculation.

It seems that there was a drop in the mean salary during the bulk of the pandemic but not by a huge amount and that it’s (so far) rebounded somewhat in 2021.

Anyway, I’ve got more data than I know what to do with, so I’ll leave this here for now, but will come back to it and welcome any suggestions. Feel free to drop your thoughts to tim@bamboofundraising.co.uk.