Study on salary and benefits practices in international solidarity organisations – Deloitte

The question of remuneration and human resources in the associative world of international solidarity regularly comes up in debates and in comparison with the general employment market. This is all the more true given that the operating models are highly diversified and changing. For NGOs, this is a truly strategic issue insofar as human resources are at the heart of associative and solidarity activity and the fact that the professionalisation and growth of humanitarian and development action lead to a comparison, if not competition, in salaries among NGOs.

By definition, this study does not address the specific nature of humanitarian and development work, which presupposes a strong commitment to the purpose of the action and which needs to balance know-how and expertise.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the salaries in question should be considered in the wider context of salaries in France and the standard of living, which is very different from and higher than those in countries where international solidarity is implemented.

In this context, the Coordination Humanitaire et Développement (CHD) is a French collective of international solidarity that brings together 55 organisations active in the fields of emergency development. CHD decided to carry out this study, via a trusted third-party firm: Deloitte, with the aim of shedding light on NGOs’ current salary practices, helping them to implement more effective remuneration policies, aligned with their culture, their mode of operation and their strategic objectives, while at the same time ensuring a competitive intelligence on current trends and emerging practices.

Members’ meeting. @CHD

The study is based on the analysis of data transmitted by 58 participating NGOs, members of CHD and Coordination Sud. The population considered in this study includes employees on permanent and fixed-term contracts, based in France or expatriates (excluding Civic Service Volunteers, International Service Volunteers, volunteers, work-study students and trainees). This represents 8,557 employees, 61% of whom are managers and 39% non-managers.

The data collected and analysed in the framework of this study are qualitative (salary and extra-salary practices within the panel) and quantitative (salary data).

A solid panel of 58 NGOs to ensure that the sector is representative

The methodology

The method used by Deloitte to build the job map of the organisations in the panel was to proceed with a connection of the jobs based on information specific to the 58 participating organisations, namely the status (non-executive/executive), the collective agreement and/or internal classification, the supervisor’s / N+1’s personnel number, the benchmark job and the job title. On the basis of the connections made for each organisation, Deloitte, with the support of a CHD monitoring committee, made it possible to draw up a global cartography at the “Deloitte job level”, thus enabling the classification of positions into homogeneous levels in order to make external comparisons in remuneration surveys, to construct a classification and to clarify the organisation by analysing relative positioning.

Deloitte’s 2022 compensation survey is based on the analysis of more than one million individual data points from over 300 companies, across all industries, company sizes and geographic locations.

A focus on internal equity and external competitiveness

Gender pay gaps are smaller than in the general market, but a glass ceiling is visible. Within the NGO panel, women represent 65% of the workforce. The overall gender pay gap is 1.5% in favour of men, compared to 3.7% in favour of men in the general market. In addition to the pay gap, there is a high representation of women at non-managerial levels, while they are in the minority at senior management levels. In addition, men have a total remuneration that is 16.1% higher than that of women.

Mechanical training. @Bioforce

Competitiveness analysis in relation to the general market: low pay progression

Despite the wide dispersion of salaries at equivalent levels of responsibility, we observe very little salary progression as one moves up the levels of responsibility, particularly for the executive population. The ratio between the lowest and highest salaries in the panel is only 2 in total compensation.

In general, employees on the NGO panel are paid below the median amounts observed on the general market. The positioning of the NGO panel’s remuneration is outside the competitive corridor, regardless of the population, the business lines and the remuneration aggregate observed.

For non-executives, we observe a positioning below the market of -11.9% in fixed salary and -19.3% in total compensation. For executives, we observe a more deteriorated positioning compared to the general market of -26.9% in fixed salary and -35.4% in total compensation.

For non-executives, the best-positioned sector in terms of fixed salary and total compensation is Human Resources, with respective differences of -3.7% and -10.2% compared to the general market. Conversely, the worst-positioned sector is the Communication sector, with a gap of -16.7% in fixed salary and -20.6% in total remuneration.

For executives, the best-positioned sector in terms of fixed salary and total remuneration is the Legal sector, with respective differences of -14.1% and -22.5% compared to the general market. Conversely, the worst-positioned sector is the General Management sector, with a gap of -43.4% in fixed salary and -52.3% in total remuneration.

Overall, in terms of total remuneration, the loss of competitiveness is in the order of 7 to 8 points compared to the position in fixed salary. This is due to the dynamics of individual and collective variables in the general market, which poses a certain challenge in terms of attractiveness.

Concerning remuneration peripherals: the main issues identified

About two out of three NGOs identified internal equity in remuneration (69% of respondents), employee retention and attractiveness of talent as the main issues. More than a third of NGOs (36%) also cited external competitiveness as a key issue for their remuneration policy and 29% identified communication and transparency of remuneration schemes as a key issue.

More than 60% of NGOs have implemented specific actions to boost the attractiveness and retention of talent, particularly following the COVID crisis. For the vast majority of them (78%), this involves the teleworking scheme. Others have also revised their salary scales, awarded exceptional increases and bonuses or sought to improve their internal communication on the measures in place.

Drinking water tank installation training @Bioforce

Talent management and remuneration :

  • An internal classification and salary scale for the majority of NGOs …

Concerning the classification system in place within NGOs, more than 1 out of 2 NGOs has an internal classification and 2/3 of NGOs have a salary scale, which is less often the case for small organisations (less than 10 employees, with a managed budget of less than €2M).

  • Increases paid in 2022 of over 3%.

Within the framework of annual negotiations, only 11% of NGOs have specific budget envelopes dedicated to promotions and exceptional bonuses, and no budget is dedicated to young graduates or to professional equality between women and men. The majority of organisations that have such specific budgets are large organisations (managed budget of over €30m and over 80 employees).

  • A mixed level of employee satisfaction and high average turnover

Only 1/3 of NGOs formally measure employee satisfaction with the organisation’s remuneration policy, usually via a questionnaire. The size of the organisation does not seem to have an impact on the implementation of these surveys.

Among NGOs that measure employee satisfaction, the proportion of employees who are somewhat satisfied and those who are not very satisfied are almost equal.

The average turnover rate observed over the last three years has tended to decrease slightly, although it remains quite high, with an average of 21%. The size of the organisation has an impact on staff turnover, which is much higher in small organisations (with a managed budget of less than €500K), reaching 33% on average.

  • Telework, widely implemented at headquarters, up to 2 days/week

A large majority of NGOs (84%) have implemented a telework agreement or charter for their headquarters staff, with an average of 2 days per week. On the other hand, far fewer (21%) offer this type of arrangement to their expatriate population. However, a minority of NGOs (16%) offer an “à la carte” formula with a number of days of telework per year or per month according to the needs of the employee.

Expatriate from the NGO Première Urgence Internationale, in the field. @PUI

Difficulties in recruiting expatriates, remuneration questioned…

As a reminder, 45% of the NGOs on the panel employ expatriates. Expatriates represent around 18% of employees (20% of non-executives and 16% of executives) according to the NGOs on the panel.

2 out of 3 NGOs encounter difficulties in recruiting expatriates, mainly due to the lack of attractive remuneration packages. Furthermore, it appears that the average length of expatriation is slightly longer for managers than for non-managers.

Thus, the purpose of this study is to observe the practices, recurrent and emerging trends in the fields of remuneration and associated benefits.

Findings and areas for reflection have been highlighted which will help to develop these practices and which concern all structures, whatever their size.

In order to ensure the continuity of the study, CHD offers support to organisations on these qualitative (salary and extra-salary practices) and quantitative (salary data) aspects for the 58 organisations that participated in the study, as well as to organisations that wish to take part in work sessions, capacity building and the sharing of practices between international solidarity actors. These exchange sessions will be facilitated by an expert and will allow us to respond to current issues related to human resources (What skills do we need to ensure the present and future functioning of the association? Where and how will we find these skills? How will we develop them, reward them and encourage them to invest fully in the association? and many others).

At the same time, CHD will mobilise with the public authorities during advocacy meetings and presentations of the strategic axes of the study in order to put forward the cause of human resources and, in particular, to demand an increase in support costs in field projects financed by public donors.

Moreover, this study is an undeniable communication tool for the international solidarity sector. It gives associations visibility on the practices of the sector, allowing them to compare themselves to other organisations and more generally to the general market. It informs employees of salary and extra-salary conditions, when the latter have a more depreciated image of their remuneration package than it actually is. The study allows for greater transparency vis-à-vis the general public and volunteers, as the sector will be able to speak out proactively and will no longer be in a position to react to attacks.

Finally, this study responds to the need for organisations to professionalise their business lines and attract the best talent to serve the causes of the organisations (particularly those appealing to the generosity of the public).

Alexia Tafanelli.

Download the study in PDF here: Study on salary practices and social benefits in international solidarity organisations.

To receive the full report, please contact Alexia Tafanelli, Executive Secretary of the CH ( / 07 56 84 85 13).

The CHD, a coordination of field organisations.

CHD brings together some fifty French international solidarity organisations. It is one of the main NGO collectives, bringing together organisations that carry out numerous humanitarian and development projects throughout the world. CHD’s dynamic aims to bring together, mobilise and gain recognition for field actors in order to influence collective decisions with Coordination SUD in terms of advocacy with public decision makers. CHD advocates relentlessly for public development aid channelled through NGOs that is commensurate with the needs we face. It also advocates for the right of initiative of NGOs, an essential principle which consists in having their modes of intervention accepted on the ground, very often a source of innovation.

CHD is structured around its four thematic working groups, a group on Training and Professional Integration (FIP), a group on the principle of NGO support, a children’s group, and a group on Support for Health Structures.

Alexia TAFANELLI, Executive Secretary of CHD

A graduate in political and international affairs from Queen Mary University of London, Alexia began her career in the organisations Solidarités International and Save the Children in programme and advocacy positions. In 2021, she became the coordinator of the Children’s Group and has since been the Executive Secretary of the Humanitarian and Development Coordination.