What you can do about media attacks on nonprofits

The nonprofit sector has a press problem. It’s especially bad in the UK, but it’s also in the US and other places.

Here’s a recent example, from the Telegraph, at The charity chiefs paid more than £100,000 a year.

The scandal these enterprising journalists uncovered?

More than 1,000 charity executives [in the UK] are paid more than £100,000 a year, despite efforts to curb pay levels in the voluntary sector…

£100,000 is about $150,000. Nothing to write home about in the world of executive pay. Yet this article talks as if salaries of that amount are clearly and obviously a problem that needs to be fixed.

I don’t doubt that some of those £100,000+ people are being overpaid. But the problem isn’t that the salary is too high. It’s that their value is too low.

As UK colleague Zoe Bunter blogged on this topic:

I’m shocked that anyone would think it a good idea to employ low-paid people, without appropriate skills and experience, to manage multi-million pound not-for-profit businesses.

In fact, underpay is a far bigger problem in the nonprofit world than overpay.

But the UK press seems intent on looking at any issue in a way that makes the nonprofit sector seem evil.

Like this one, reported by Civil Society: The Times story today is scraping the bottom of the barrel, but we still can’t ignore it. The story reports on how some charities work to get the money that people left them in their wills — and they make it seem like some kind of creepy stalker behavior.

Then there’s the tragic death of Olive Cooke, another ginned-up story full of distortion and falsehoods.

It’s hard to beat the press at their own game of building the narrative. But I can think of two things we all should do:


  1. Talk back. Every time one of these bogus stories comes out. Write letters to the editor. Blog about it. Talk to your friends. Make as much noise as you can. Do your part to keep those stories from going unanswered.
  2. Don’t do anything remotely dishonest, sloppy, or mean. And do your part to stop anyone who tries. Because those things rub off on all of us.

Here’s another interesting take on the issue, from Fundraising Fundamentals:” The War on Charities.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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