plantThis article is in response to several pieces that have appeared in The Rebuttal regarding the leadership of deaf charities. I can empathise with those who think that CEOs of charities are paid too much but would like the opportunity to tell the story from the other side of the fence. I am a Deaf CEO of a medium sized charity in the UK providing support to deaf people. If my salary were converted to Aussie dollars it would not reach six figures, but to justify what I earn, however much it is, I need to show the Board that I can:

· Sustain and increase the value of contracts secured

· Sustain and increase the amount of unrestricted income (fundraising and non-project funds)

· Ensuring that all staff perform their jobs efficiently

· Ensuring that all policies, operating regulations and quality marks are complied with

· Ensuring that all insurance requirements are complied with

· Ensuring all funder requirements are complied with

· Ensuring the overall efficiency of the organisation

· Developing and managing the annual budget and ensuring spending is in line with annual requirements

· Develop business and strategic plans for the organisation

· Grab opportunities that come your way

· Lead the organisation forward – staff and the Board

· Develop and sustain excellent relationships with all stakeholders

· Solving problems on the fly however large or small

· Ensuring your knowledge of issues directly and indirectly affecting your organisation is thorough and up to date (i.e. charity and company law, deafness, HR, the economy, government strategies etc)

· Communicate with all stakeholders including government representatives

· Ability to recruit the right people

The list goes on. A successful CEO must have all these attributes and more – to be blunt it is a demanding job and the incumbent needs to be a highly skilled individual. A poor CEO or one who does not have most of these attributes will surely fail. It is no easy task keeping a charity going – what is stopping funders from pulling out and awarding contracts to someone else? The CEO needs to be on his/her toes at all times and must not allow the charity to stagnate.

The past 3 years have been very draining for me personally but I am proud of my achievements – at the end of the next financial year, if all goes well, my charity will have doubled its income in only 4 years plus paying off a £250,000 overall deficit. It is extremely satisfying to see the organisation where it is today and I have plans for the future. If the charity tripled its income I would expect my salary to triple – this is a no-brainer – after all it was me who made this happen. But as a good employer I would ensure that high performance staff received some sort of reward – perhaps a promotion or a pay rise. But there are limits to what I can do. Some staff may do well but may not have the attributes to climb the corporate ladder and this is a quality I can easily identify in my workers. But everyone needs to be treated fairly and some sort of appraisal framework must be in place to ensure fairness and to prevent a staff member raising a grievance or a complaint.

Every cause has an effect and whatever you do, someone else is bound to get hurt. So if my charity triples its income other organisations are going to miss out somewhere along the line. There is only a finite amount of funds in the collective kitty for deaf services and an infinite number of organisation clamouring for a piece of the action. Someone’s gain is someone else’s loss.

Now onto the issue of charities taking over other charities. All I can say that those that “lost” had themselves to blame and it hurts to say this. If the charities that were taken over had been stronger, these “takeovers” probably would never have happened. The number one concern with every charity is money and objectives/principles come second. You need money to run a business (charities are businesses, actually) and principles alone won’t run the business, unless you are prepared to rely wholly on volunteers. So some compromises need to be made. Some charities are very clever with these compromises and some are not.

If a charity allows these compromises to favour business operations then another question needs to be asked – could the charity survive if compromises were made with regard to business operations? If not then the charity as a whole must be flawed and it could possibly find itself in a greatly weakened position.


  1. The only viable charity is one actively seeking to make itself redundant.

    The biggest UK charity here hates deaf people, does not empower them, operates a declared glass ceiling to deaf people, will not employ them, hires only hearing professionals, and also employs 6 full time image consultants and spin merchant to plug itself, and undermine deaf objections to that status quo.

    Their CEO went on TV calling deaf people ‘whiners’ and if they don’t like it, they know what to do, I don’t care if their CEO ( A failed politician, and ex-dog and cat charity worker who hadn’t even met a deaf person before, let alone what issues we faced), does the job for nothing, the whole attitude is anti us, and definitely sees the position as a stepping stone to some knighthood, while ensuring deaf and others remain dependent on what charity provides, which is in fact a second-rate service on the cheap for a government circumventing our basic rights, and includes none of us.

  2. MM .. Do you live in Australia. You could almost be talking about one of our CEOs. He employs Deaf people but only if they are his puppets and do his bidding.

    They snipe behind his back, say horrible things about him but when push comes to shove their noses are so far up his proverbial it is not funny. In fact I was almost certain you were writing about the same person.

    He ignores the views of Deaf people and anyone that stands in his way. He is rude and arrogant to boot with no respect for Deaf people at all. Maybe he has a twin brother.

  3. It’s the policy of charity preservation, they are a self-serving, and self-job-creating dependency industry, so don’t want to empower deaf to do for themselves, they would be out of work. They blackmail deaf objectors here in the UK, and use media to suggest we are undermining a good ’cause’, and depriving ‘needy deaf people’, but who is it good FOR ?

    So instead of being dependent on the state for handouts, we are dependent on charity instead ? We’ve gone full circle from Victorian times, where deaf begged on the street with tins, then the state accepted they had a moral duty to support and empower deaf people, now they have reverted to charity again. I ask where do rights come into all this ?

    This charity has 1120 employees, less than 10% have any hearing loss at all, and not one is at senior level, and they recently refused to set up a training scheme to enable deaf people to get involved with the charity, or to move up to senior level, claiming “It is too expensive…”, they have 35,000 members but refuse to declare how many are actually with a hearing loss or deaf, because someone questioned many were relatives or working for the charity, and, hearing..

    Their Newsletter editor has so far refused to print a single letter or comment, that raises these issues, and they removed the open online forums because deaf asked too many questions. 18 months ago under pressure from deaf they promised an open ‘surgery’ online to answer criticism, it never happened.

  4. The charity that MM is referring to is RNID. One of the most reviled Deaf orgs. in the UK.

    To answer Paul’s post: if an org relies on volunteers, to run much of or part of their agenda, then to pay such large salaries to the CEO, is obscene.

    If it’s status and big money you want, go into the private sector. This is supposed to be a charity, and altruistic organisation, dedicated to helping the less fortunate [cue: violin strings].

    Unfortunately, in today’s climate [economy] charities are forced to work like businesses. Therefore…..

    Else the criticisms stand!

  5. Some CEOs in charitable organisations (especially those in Australia) do get some questionable salary figures yet when recruiting staff they impose interesting standards that does not come anywhere close to what the CEO currently have!

    I know a reputable deaf friend of mine who was contacted by a CEO national deaf organisation (who I must mention is on a very hefty salary) asking him to present to an audience of people about deaf issues and history.

    The work will take about 4-6 hours to prepare plus a few hours travel time as well as arond 8 hours of onsite presentation. Quite fairly and reasonably my deaf friend outlined to this CEO that to do the job (in which he will have to take time off from work) will need to incur a very modest fee.

    The CEO, who does not possess the intimate knowledge or skills of deaf history nor does have any close involvement with the community replied with a firm no. In fact he wanted this to be provided for free.

    Of course it is no debate if an interpreter raise his/her fee as it is a given but to seek a deaf person who has the qualifciations, skills, knowledge (that could exceed the CEO itself) raises the issue whether this CEO should be taking a hard look at itself.

    Sadly, CEOs are quick to appoint hearing consults (and pay obsense hourly rates) for specific work but for deaf people we are to be expected to provide our time and services for free!

    Injustice I must say.

  6. On this occasion I would just like to address one of Mr Bartlett’s points: ‘If the charity tripled its income I would expect my salary to triple – this is a no-brainer – after all it was me who made this happen.’

    I don’t think that this logic necessarily flows. While it could be argued that such a principle ought to apply in the course of a business, I think it’s a mistake to assume that such a principle smoothly migrates to charity.

    A business is generally about making a profit by making and selling a good product or service. Charity is a different kettle of fish, the word itself is from French charite, from Latin caritas ‘love.’

    I don’t say that to try and stir up a warm fuzzy feeling, but rather to point out that there is an important moral principle in play when it comes to charity. Rather than make a good product or provide a good service, a charity tries to appeal to peoples’ generosity on behalf of the beneficiaries.

    So, if generous people give money to a charity, they expect, rightly, that that money helps the people it was designated to help – and not to make the top staff rich.

  7. Tim. I agree with you a hundred percent. There is also the issue of team. The CEO may lead but the result comes down to team. Do we triple all their salaries?

    Your main point though is priorities. People give expecting money to go to the target group not to pay excessive salaries. Having said that Paul’s salary is not excessive by any means.

    The otherside of the coin is if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Services to the target group then suffer. The issue is ensuring equitable salaries and certainly a CEO on 200 grand while the workers that work long hours to provide the service are on less than a quarter of this is totally inapprpriate and offensive. Or where top three in management take up over 70 percent of salary expenditure, this is absurd and an insult to all that donate to the charity.

    It’s all about balance and rewarding the team and mostly making sure the bulk of money goes to service the target group. Not just those in the ivory towers.

  8. Gazza, the argument that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys is a furphy. It’s a rationale to justify the profit motive. Nothing more, nothing less.

    It is OK to work for money, but as Tim said with regards to charity, it’s a different kettle of fish.

    Using the peanuts for monkeys arguement, it’s no wonder the credibility of CEO’s in Deaf orgs are being questioned. If you have to buy their altruism, then the orgs are curb crawlers.
    The CEO’s are also in a role of leadership and responsibility. So if their skills and knowledge is worth so many $$$, then my labour – voluntary or otherwise is worth the same. $ for $!

    Because without our labour, voluntary or otherwise, they are up shit creek!

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