I remember when I first started at SCVO in 1998, and frequently had to explain (or justify?) to enquirers why voluntary organisations and charities had paid staff, rather than relying completely on volunteers. We’ve come a long way since then, and as the sector has become increasingly professionalised, people are still the central resource for the third sector.

Now one of the most common questions we get asked on the Information Service is “do you have any advice on typical salary scales for voluntary organisations?”

Unfortunately there’s no straightforward answer to this question. Salary scales are dependent on so many factors, such as:

  • the size and structure of an organisation
  • the level of responsibility of a post
  • where an organisation is based, and local job market conditions
  • balancing affordability with the role of the third sector in advancing the importance of paying the living wage

one of the most common questions we get asked is “do you have any advice on typical salary scales for voluntary organisations?”

Some jobs, such as those in IT or finance, or more senior positions may have to be pegged at a level comparable with some private sector jobs in order to attract good candidates. But also remember, it’s not just about the money – other factors such as flexible working, greater autonomy and development opportunities are just as important for many of us.

We recommend you take a look at current recruitment adverts on third sector recruitment site Goodmoves – that way you can get a sense of what the sector is paying for similar types of jobs. It may be worth you getting hold of a few application packs to compare job descriptions and person specifications to help you with your next steps.

Many voluntary organisations across Scotland use scales linked to local authority, civil service or specific groups like academic or nursing grades. However, the main problem is equating different jobs to particular points or grades on the scales, and obtaining the complete pay rate information on a reliable basis. This is a particular issue we’ve come across for voluntary organisations that use the Scottish Joint Council (SJC) salary scales. SJC scales are local government pay scales, negotiated between trade unions and local government employers. SCVO have traditionally published the scales on our website as a service to the sector, but are not involved in any of the negotiations.

So what do you do if you use the SJC scales, but don’t have any supplementary information that would help you decide where to place staff on these scales? What if you’re a small organisation without an HR specialist? How do you know what the size of the various bands mean, and how you advance employees up the scales? These problems have been further compounded by the recent move by local authorities towards local agreements, and we know that currently there are a lot of voluntary organisations looking for more information and guidance.

At the moment it is really difficult to answer those questions, but we’re keen to help! In early 2015 we’re going to carry out research into the sector’s salaries and condition. We’ll also be asking people what they think about working in this sector, so keep your eyes peeled for surveys over the coming months so you can help us get a better picture of the employment landscape in this very diverse sector of ours. And get in touch if you have a special interest or want to see a specific topic addressed.