With a population of just under 320,000, Icelanders tend to know someone-who knows someone-who knows someone else-who knows the first person in the cycle. And they are inquisitive about certain things. Like how much salary other people get. Thus at this time of year, the names of the highest tax payers get published, and at least one publication worked out the monthly salaries of the highest tax payers in certain fields.
What I was surprised and somewhat horrified to find was that the salaries of people heading NGOs such as Amnesty International are actually definitely in the higher bracket. Obviously the days when we used to work as volunteers or for virtually nothing, and all the income went to the cause, are long gone – or maybe that situation never existed in Iceland. How much membership money goes towards paying the staff?
A few organisations exist in Iceland, such as Friends of India, Friends of Kenya and Parents Gidole (in Ethiopia) where no one is paid and so all the money collected goes directly to where it’s needed. In the Ethiopian case, the organisers enquired about setting up an NGO but were told that they would have to pay 30% of all proceeds to the Ethiopian government. They were appalled, so have kept the organisation low-key. These are the organisations we should be supporting.