Pay and working conditions in Russian CSOs post-pandemic

What CSO employees live on: How much CSO staff earn and how their working conditions have changed as a result of the pandemic


On 7 December, the Blagosfer Centre hosted a discussion on “Who in CSOs is well off?”. Irina Mersiyanova, CEO of the Centre for Civil Society and CSO Sector Studies at the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics, presented the results of a survey conducted earlier this year as part of their monitoring of the state of Russian civil society.

How much CSO staff are paid

According to the research, 69% of CSOs have salaried employees. The largest group of CSOs are those that employ one to five staff, i.e. 29% of such bodies. As a rule, many CSOs have staff who work flexibly, with half as many working part-time as full-time. During the pandemic, 50% of CSOs retained the same number of employees, while a quarter of organisations saw a drop in staff numbers.

Current salaries in the sector

Around 70% of CSOs claim their salaries have not changed over the last two years of the pandemic. Wages increased in 3-7% of organisations, with the remainder falling by 22,700 roubles – the average monthly salary of a CSO employee in Russia.

The average monthly salary of an CSO employee in Russia reached nearly 23,000 roubles this year. In 2015, it was around 15,000 roubles and in 2010, 9,000 roubles.

According to Mersiyanova, the growth in salaries within the sector has been influenced by the introduction of several State support mechanisms such as the Presidential Grant Fund, competitions etc.

It is also interesting to note that the trend of employee movement from business to the non-profit sector still persists and is even gathering momentum.

“People of all ages continue to leave government and commercial agencies for the non-profit sector despite the lower salaries on offer”, said Elina Cuesta, founder and CEO of the iRecommend website. “There is a lot more response for jobs in the non-profit sector where vacancies are filled in a matter of days”, she added.

Sources of funding

40% of CSOs stated that their budget is derived among other things from revenue raised through the sale of their own goods and services. Ten years ago, there were only half as many such organisations.

18% of CSOs have only one source of funding, with the average Russian non-profit organisation usually having two of three sources: grants, their own resources, founders’ funds and so on. 36% of CSOs have three or four revenue streams.

What prevents CSOs from raising salaries?

One of the main reasons is that many CSOs operate on a project-based system where salaries are calculated based on the minimum wage. In addition, according to many senior managers in the sector, most donors don’t realise that they have to support not only the programmes but also the professionals responsible for organising them. “The myth still persists in civil society that “you do good so why do you expect to be paid for it?” Although, doing good is often expensive”, says Mersiyanova.

However, according to the research, managers themselves are in no hurry to increase their own employees’ wages. “People work for the pay on offer and that’s fine”, many non-profit managers readily admit.

On the other hand, working for the non-profit sector has many “bonuses”, from the feeling of doing something worthwhile to the opportunity of travelling around the country.

The discussion on “Who in non-profit bodies leads a fulfilling life?” from the series “What is known about the state of Russian society based on research and statistics?” is based on interviews and data from the 2021 All-Russian survey of CSOs conducted as part of the Civil Society Monitoring of Civil Society and Non-Profit Sector Research Centre at the Higher School of Economics programme.

The research involved 1,000 SONGO managers in all regions across Russia.


Translated by Neil Hailey

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