Speaker fees: paid to staff or the organisation?

Hi :grinning:! It was my first time at the lunch meet today - super valuable and lovely to meet you all.

I’m sharing here as requested some of the conversation around the topic I brought.

Scenario: As a charity we sometimes will speak at events (panels, presentations etc) in return for a speaking fee. This fee has always been paid as a donation directly to our charity but recently it has come up in conversation about whether this could be paid to the individual who is speaking. We have a well-used TOIL procedure where any hrs worked over contracted hrs can be taken as TOIL.

Here are some of the points we considered during the lunch meet today:

  • In scenarios where people are speaking about their lived experience - perhaps it is more justifiable to have the speaker fee / a proportion of the fee given to the individual

  • The above is especially true in the case that the person is on a low wage

  • Is it fair to value speaking work over other types of work? For example, if employees can make more money from speaking - but other employees don’t have that opportunity nor is this offered for other tasks - is that fair?

  • How do we handle how this might impact motivation to uptake certain activities. For example, if individuals can boost their income through speaking then might they prioritise this work to the detriment of other parts of their role?

  • How would we make sure that these opportunities were spread evenly amongst the team?


It was lovely to meet you at the Lunch Meet Elysha - thank you for coming and for sharing your topic and your insights. The points you raise here feel really important and seem to relate to some wider questions as well (e.g. in terms of honouring the emotional cost of sharing difficult lived experiences). Would be really interested to hear others’ thoughts on these questions…


Thanks for sharing! I am sad I missed the conversation today! We’ve been talking about renumeration and recognition a lot at fractals co-op recently, so I have a few musings and experiences that speak to the points you’ve raised which I hope are useful for the conversation. You’ve really got me thinking about this and some of our experiences <3

In previous precarious contracts in academia these fees have gone into a development or other budget for the individual to spend on professional development. They won’t let you pay it you as salary without going through arduous “consultancy” frameworks. In these contracts there’s also sufficient wiggle room for “professional development” where doing speaking gigs for free is encouraged as “it’ll look good on your CV”. I do not recommend this way.

We have “solutions” from our perspectives as democratic organisations with a flat hierarchies. I come with experience from a couple of co-ops.

  • In the instance of Cetis LLP we’re a partnership, and we have a mechanism for profit sharing/allocation which would allow for all or some of that fee to be paid to the individual. With any payment to the organisation there’s a discussion and consensus mechanism for discussing how this could be done on a case by case basis, which probably doesn’t scale well.
  • At fractals co-op, we are a worker owned co-op non-profit and have been renegotiating how we pay ourselves in light of fluctuating revenue. There the money would go into the central pot. The power dynamic is different for us as we’re all equal owners and have a pay model that considers needs and equitable distribution which is regularly reviewed. Consensus based decision making happens here too, but in a light weight and ad-hoc way.

What is fairness in this context? Fairness could look like sharing the money with more people, sharing the speaking opportunities between a pool of interested people, or splitting the fee in a way that recognises and remunerating for collaboration and invisible labour of others that goes into presentations or involvement in engagement activities.

The potential for detriment to work is interesting too! I wonder whether this is something you’ve seen or is an emergent concern? Does incurring additional TOIL have a similar impact when people can take more time off for themselves? If people accrue and use more leave, does that impact their motivation? Different people might want different things. Some people might want the fee due to their financial needs, others may want TOIL as they prefer that benefit.

I’m reflecting on how we do sharing in our organisations, how we involved those who might be impacted in this discussion as they’re the ones who are most likely to be impacted (e.g., other low income individuals, colleagues whose work-life is impacted by those who prioritise speaking engagements).

My lingering thoughts are:

  • how can we we make time and space so a variety of people who are interested can have access to these opportunities?
  • how can we facilitate participatory discussions about processes for sharing and fairness surrounding this labour, ensuring all those who are impacted can be involved?
  • what barriers need to be overcome culturally and technically so we recognise and remunerate labour that goes into speaking and engagement?

Something that might be helpful to bear in mind when developing a policy on this issue is that sometimes the only option is a personal payment to the speaker.

This has happened a few times to me, when in salaried jobs, particularly with media appearances. I regarded each instance as 100% work so logged the time, took the fee and then donated the money to my employer, but that relied on my judgement which isn’t ideal.

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