Recruitment: Stating a desire for diversity does not a diverse team make

Recruitment: Stating a desire for diversity does not a diverse team make

Lizzie Ellis | 23 December 2019

Lizzie Ellis, IoF Policy and Information Officer, looks at what the initial results from the recent survey on sector recruitment processes show us about how we can improve practices and what the next steps are for 2020.

First impressions matter. As fundraisers we understand this better than anyone – a killer first impression can be the difference between a long-term relationship with a supporter and a door slammed in our faces (metaphorically or otherwise).

We get this when we talk about our relationships with the public, or a potential corporate donor. But how much do we think about it when we come to how we recruit? Are we as considered about both how we present our charities and the roles we advertise? And how much are we thinking about how people from a full range of diverse backgrounds will respond to our recruitment practices and what barriers they might face?

As part of the IoF’s work on equality, diversity, and inclusion (through the Change Collective) we’ve been thinking about the importance of the recruitment process in charity fundraising, and conducted a survey for hiring managers, candidates and recruitment agencies to find out more about people’s experiences and insights. We also held roundtables and had a number of individual conversations to better understand how the recruitment process is working, the issues relating to EDI that it raises, and to think about what we can do across the sector to improve practices.

Transparent, clear and open

Firstly, a big thank you to anyone who completed, or even started completing, the survey. A total of 274 people took part and the information you shared with us has been really helpful and informative. Some of things we found out we already suspected, and now have evidence for, while other issues came up which we now need to shine a spotlight on.

The themes that came up over and over again were around transparency and clarity throughout the recruitment experience. Candidates wanted job adverts to be specific in what was really an essential requirement rather than copy-and-paste job descriptions and templates. Bad adverts were said to lack a clear understanding of what the role would actually entail – reflected in the 33% who thought their job title didn’t adequately express what they do.

81% expected to see the salary stated in the job advert, with sentiments that can be summed up as: ‘competitive’ is not a salary range. 60% of candidates would want to see flexible working information on job adverts too – if you already work in a flexible environment that fits around your life and family, why would you risk moving to a position where it wasn’t clear if the grass would be as green let alone greener?

Recruitment agencies understood the need for clarity in the context of shifting goal posts – a brief that begins open but defers to a desire to hire a replica of their previous fundraiser. One response challenged hiring managers to think about why they’re asking for certain qualities: “think broadly and creatively – not just 'wild card' alternatives to be dismissed later in the process”.

Our approaches to recruitment have a real impact on both how equal and diverse our teams are, as well as how long fundraisers will stay in their jobs. Candidates should be confident that the job and organisation they want to commit to will meet or exceed their expectations, and if it does they will be more likely to stay in it for longer. If our practices remain the same, then ultimately so too will the make-up of our sector.

What about once people are employed?

People’s experiences varied wildly once they entered their organisations. For example, 17% of candidates didn’t have an induction or onboarding process at all, and those that did lasted anywhere from an hour to 6 weeks. For some, qualitative answers seem to have provided a chance for some much-needed catharsis about induction-horrors of time gone by, showing a real spectrum of how people are introduced to their organisations. This spectrum continues in how respondents interact with their organisations, with 25% not having regular appraisals and 34% not receiving any kind of regular feedback from their manager.

Next steps

In a roundtable conversation, one fundraising manager reflected that they felt thrown into recruiting for roles without support from the organisation or having any experience of doing so. Similarly, 34% of hiring managers that responded to the survey weren’t given training to be a manager. If this is reflective of experiences across the sector, then it isn’t surprising that organisations struggle to take a step back and think critically about what effects their internal practices have.

With this in mind, we will be using this research to produce a recruitment toolkit in the new year. We hope this will support already stretched fundraising departments to have the right conversations and provide tools for those who might be struggling to make change and recruit and retain more diverse fundraisers to their teams. Stay tuned in spring for the final product!

Lizzie Ellis is Policy and Information Officer at the Institute of Fundraising.

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