Who on earth wants to work in the charity sector now? Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they went and did. And how.
In the wake of the safeguarding and harassment concerns seemingly engulfing the charity sector, ACEVO has issued a statement saying that charities must be held to the highest possible standards. Right and true, but there have always been greater expectations on charities and for the people who work in them simply because of the way they are funded and governed. Everybody owns their small piece and has a view on how charities should be run, which can include that people working in them should be doing it for nothing.
At the same time as the sector taking yet another public relations battering, charities, like every other sector are trying to plan ahead and make sense of the economic forecasts that flow from the news that comes out almost on a daily basis – hard or soft Brexit, no Brexit, economic growth down to 1.7%, number of unemployed up 46k to 1.4m, more ‘selfies’ in the workforce, net EU migration down, outside the EU migration up, productivity up 0.8%, wages up 2.5% and an inflation rate of around 3%.
A perfect storm if ever there was.
For reasons known only too well, the charity sector is no longer the ‘cool’ place to work and many well intentioned and principled people who “want to make a difference” are thinking twice before they continue to work in the sector or transfer to it. There are other destinations of choice these days – social enterprise, community interest companies, CSR.
It would seem like it’s not a great time to be working in the charity sector. For anyone already in the sector, it is perhaps no longer a source of pride and interest as a topic of conversation at a dinner party. And yet even most cynical of people would concede that the sector as a whole, and individual charities in their own right, have a lot to be immensely proud of. There is a rich heritage.
Indeed, charities have often led the way for others to follow. Everyday there are a huge number of hugely talented and committed people at all levels doing great things in the sector no matter that the headlines of the moment seek to suggest otherwise. This is something that the sector should remind itself of occasionally and perhaps especially at this point in time.
The sector needs to hang on to these people like never before as well as bring in new talents and perspectives to refresh the skills charities need to deliver against the “highest possible standards”. Safeguarding, and increasingly digital safeguarding, along with sexual harassment, are the concern of every employer, institution and government so nobody should be led into thinking that charities have a greater challenge to address. It is inevitable that there will be found to be failings in every quarter that will shock, but that’s no reason to choose the fire over the frying pan.
Committed people, robust procedures and a willingness to confront the issues are the only way of addressing them.
For anyone thinking about whether they should stay in the charity sector, or transfer into it, I would urge you to stick not twist and for very good reason. If you really do “want to make a difference” and “change the world” then there has possibly never been a more important time.
There’s no denying that the end of 2017 and the early part of this year have been uncertain times. The self-inflicted own goals, continued political and economic uncertainty and possibly just a general weariness made for lower levels of activity in the market. But right now I can’t remember a time pre the 2008/9 crash when there has been a higher number of search and selection instructions coming through at once.
There’s no obvious reason, unless …people are leaving the sector in droves.
Has anyone else seen a stampede for the door? Are you considering leaving the sector because of recent revelations? What would you say to anyone contemplating a career in the sector now?
Trends we saw in 2017 continue to evolve alongside recent (unwelcome) developments:
- Trustee recruitment – more charities searching for new skills beyond the networks of the current Board and more than ever before are conducting referencing and vetting as part of the appointment process than in the past and as recommended by the Charity Commission
- Executive roles across all disciplines, middle management and niche roles – fewer candidates, proactive search and engagement taking longer
- Development is being more and more in favour of ‘fundraising’ as the sector ‘commercialises’ it’s approach to income generation
- Philanthropy is used increasingly as an alternative to major relationship fundraising with individual and institutional/organisational donors and there continues to be greater investment by charities in this income stream
- Individual giving – there remains a shortage of skills and GDPR has only added to competition
- While GDPR has created a rush for compliance with data management, charities are increasingly creating specialist roles for fundraising governance more broadly
- Safeguarding is top of everyone’s agenda, but digital safeguarding is just around the corner so watch this space