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Student Views: Charity isn't free

Orli West asks - Is it fair to argue that the charity workers who do so much for our community should work for nothing?

    Recently, I stumbled upon an article written by the JC in 2014 entitled “Revealed: who gets what among charity movers and shakers.” It detailed how much 43 Jewish charities highest paid employee earnt, and was very interesting to read. The salaries range from under £60,000 at Ort UK and British Emunah Funds to £180,000 for the Chief Rabbinate Trust and the CST. It was over our Pesach Seder that this article sparked an even more interesting conversation; should charity employees be paid, and if so, how much is too much?

    We had the pleasure of having the CEO of one of the UK’s biggest Jewish charities, who also happens to be one of my closest family friends, at our Seder this year, who graciously provided me with an impromptu interview on the subject.

    The counterbalance to this conversation was my Nana, who believes that every penny earnt by a charity should go to its recipients. From a philosophical perspective, a charity should be raising as much money as possible for those it is helping. Nevertheless, from a practical perspective, however well-intentioned people who work for charities are, they still need to put food on the tables of their own families. 

    Also as chair of Jewish Leadership Council, Mick Davis noted "The trustees believe in attracting first-class talent to work for the organisation… we will pay appropriate salaries to attract and retain the best talent."

    You could therefore argue that paying for “the best” is an investment. Although in 2014, Jewish Care’s CEO salary was at the higher end of the spectrum at a substantial six-figure sum, that is still less than 0.5% Jewish Care’s turnover, which stood in excess of £45 million.  

    However, this is relatively small when compared with the salary of the CEO for the US’s largest Jewish charity, Jewish Federation of North America, which stands at $636,559.

    For me, this argument hits a slightly more personal note. I have worked part time at the charity Norwood for almost six years, first volunteering for two and having now been paid there for three.

    I am always quick to tell people how much I love my job; the good, the bad, and even the occasionally painful! I am incredibly lucky to have won awards for the work I do, and it is a job that I have loved from the very beginning. For me, seeing as I (unfortunately) only get to work every so often when I’m home from uni, I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I find it incredibly fulfilling, and I truly enjoy it.

    But I know that if I were to never be paid again, eventually I would have to leave Norwood and find a job that paid me, even if it were a job I loved less.

    I suppose that brings me back to my original point; it is unsustainable to expect charity employees to work for free.

    Whilst almost $650,000 could be argued to be excessive, it seems equally as irrational to argue that those who do so much for our community should do it for nothing. Because, as much as I wish it did, the passion you have for a job or a cause alone is rarely enough to put food on the table. 

    Orli West is in her second year at Birmingham University where she is studying Education.

    Read the previous entry

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