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Charities and transparency

Some of the recent revelations around charity funding, salaries and transparency have raised eyebrows, and rightly so.

A young girl holds her baby sister in her arms. The family is one of many in the Daami slum district of Hargeisa that are beneficiaries  of Concern projects aimed at providing access to basic services. .Photo: David Pratt/ Sunday Herald

Criticism

Such astounding revelations are doing a huge disservice to the staff and volunteers of organisations, like Concern Worldwide, who have invested in strong internal controls and good governance and are driven by a shared vision.

New charity regulator

At the end of January, the Irish Minister for Justice announced the process for appointing the board of a new charitable regulatory authority. According to the legislation, the authority will be responsible for a range of regulatory and advisory functions, including publishing a comprehensive list of organisations that have charitable status.

Wouldn’t such a list be a great opportunity to recognise those organisations who have invested in ways of ensuring charities follow good practice? This would offer some guidance to the public and the media on accountability and transparency.

Our vision

Like many other charities in Ireland, there are no expense accounts, top-up payments, bonuses or company cars at Concern. This is as it should be: we are committed to working with the world’s poorest people to transform their lives. It is thanks to your support that we are able to fulfil our vision of a world without poverty. We do this by spending 89.8% of your donations on our overseas programmes.

Accountability and transparency

Charities have to be business-like: that means being accountable, transparent and effective. The challenge is to do that without being slick and corporate. It’s a fine balancing act and we continually debate the content of our website and publications like annual reports. They serve a useful purpose in helping to ensure we are accountable and transparent.

Our accounts

For the fourth successive year, our accounts won the Published Accounts Awards for charities in Ireland. This is an important independent benchmark recognising best-in-class standards.

CEO salaries

Concern’s current CEO, Dominic MacSorley, is paid €99,000 per year. The salary is decided by the Council of Concern based on the skills and responsibility required for the role. The CEO leads an organisation which:

  • Has a budget of over €165 million
  • Employs 3,500 people in 27 countries
  • Helped 24 million people last year

Charity boards need to have the freedom to decide what to pay; charities should be obliged to publish that information and supporters can then make a decision about whether or not it’s reasonable.

Senior level salaries

Last year, a total of 10 employees, who are based in Ireland and the UK, earned salaries of more than €70,000 per annum. The number of people in each pay bracket was as follows:

Salaries Staff members
€70,001 to €80,000 2
€80,001 to €90,000 6
€90,001 to €100,000 2
€120,000 to €130,000 0

Contributions of between 7.5% and 9% of salary were made to the defined contribution pension scheme for 10 members of staff who earned in excess of €70,000.

The reality

For the good of the sector, charities need to ensure the public have confidence in our ability to address these issues and move the debate onto the most important question of all: how well we are doing in delivering our vision of a better world for all?