Average charity CEO salary increases by 3.6%


The average salary of chief executives in charity organisations rose by 3.6% last year, according to an annual survey by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).

The Pay and equalities 2021 report found that the median annual pay received by CEOs in the voluntary sector increased from £55,993 in 2020 to £58,000 in 2021.

However, the survey of 1,000 respondents revealed that CEOs operating in England were less likely to have received a pay rise than those based in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The overall pay gap between male and female CEO respondents has continued to decrease from 13.8% in 2018, 12% in 2020 and 7.6% in 2021.

The majority of CEOs, 88%, did not need to take a pay cut as a result of the pandemic.

The survey also found that 60% of respondents feel their board prioritises their wellbeing, an increase from 54% in 2020.

However, the research highlighted some complacency over key governance issues: nearly half (49%) of CEOs reported having no formal salary review on a regular basis, a sharp increase from 39% that reported this in 2020. The number of CEOs holding an up-to-date job description fell from 75% in 2020 to 69% this year, and less than a fifth (17%) have personal development plans.

Diversity, inclusion and representation is a key issues for many CEOs in the voluntary sector, as 43% of respondents stated that they planned to address ethnic diversity on their boards within the next year. However just 25% of respondents were happy with the ethnic diversity of their boards.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of ACEVO, said: “The last year presented numerous challenges for charities and their leaders, so it is encouraging to see that satisfaction levels remain high, that most chief executives did not need to take a pay cut as a result of the pandemic and that 75% of respondents still expect to be working in the sector in five years’ time.”

She explained that while it was encouraging in 2020 to see an increase in the prevalence of regular salary reviews and up-to-date job descriptions, this year’s data showed a drop in these figures which was “a cause for concern”.

Browning added: “While the challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from Covid-19 are significant, organisations will only be able to build back better if boards keep the focus on these key governance processes which allow leaders to make the biggest possible difference.

“Prioritising chief executive wellbeing and professional/personal development is hugely important to ensure that the communities and causes charities work with and for continue to access the best possible service.”