Who isn't in the room: More than percentages, policies and practices

Who isn't in the room: More than percentages, policies and practices

Lizzie Ellis | 5 June 2019

As we publish our research 'Who isn't in the room? Equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising profession', Lizzie Ellis, IoF Policy and Information Officer, has taken a look at what the research shows, and doesn’t show, about the fundraising profession.

Today, the IoF published “Who isn't in the room?”, a piece of research that sets a benchmark of equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising profession. Having been involved in the first conversations about what our survey would ask respondents, to the last conversations about the colour of a bar chart, I am certainly biased, but it feels like this has filled an important evidence-gap in the sector. 

Back in 2013 the IoF collected data on diversity from individual fundraisers, but this told us little of how charities themselves were approaching equality, diversity and inclusion internally. A key commitment in the IoF’s Manifesto for Change was establish an up-to-date evidence base to inform an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy and help us navigate what might be the most effective actions going forward. So we switched our methodology from surveying fundraisers to asking charities about the makeup of their fundraising teams and the organisational policies which might impact the diversity of these teams. The hope was that this would give us a bigger and better sample to draw conclusions from. 

This proved tricky; namely because most charities either don’t record all of this data or don’t have easy access to it. Anecdotally, we heard large and small charities alike found the survey a challenge to fill out so we hugely appreciate those who took the time to do so. One member told us she had to involve the help of 4 different people in the organisation to collate the data in one place. This is a lesson in itself. The phrase ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ comes to mind - if charities aren’t able to monitor progress then how will they know what’s working? 

The results show a stark under representation of BAME and disabled fundraisers in the profession. They show the gender pay gap of the fundraising sector is worse than that of the wider charity sector. They show that a fifth of charities still offer unpaid internships or work placements. They reaffirm the assertions in our Manifesto for Change and underpin our EDI strategy (to be launched at our Fundraising Convention in July), which will be the roadmap for the IoF’s future activities in this space. 

What the research couldn't show

But there were things the research couldn’t show. Enabling diversity within a charity is more than just percentages, policies and practices. It requires an internal culture that accepts, celebrates and values all people for what they bring to the organisation, that creates an environment where people feel able to be themselves. It requires internal buy-in from senior leadership, in a way that not only acknowledges the moral and business case for diversity, but also acts on it. 

This brings me to my key takeaway from the data: inaction. Of course there are some charities doing great and ambitious things, but there are many more charities doing little or nothing. Only 32% of charities review their job descriptions regularly to check if they are only asking for essential requirements and 21% require degrees for entry level fundraising roles, both of which could be excluding talented people bringing different experience to the sector. Whatever the reason for inaction in individual charities (indifference, passivity, lack of understanding, resource constraints), progress will require active assessment of bias and barriers. 

I’m hoping the research will be a prompt for important conversations within charities: how many of these organisational practices does your charity have? How do the inequalities in your workforce compare to the rest of the country? Our research shows that 30% of fundraising teams set their own recruitment practices – this means it is in our power to remove certain barriers to entry into the profession. In particular we’d like to see charities commit to scrapping unpaid internships which act as a barrier to social mobility.

Conducting this research was very much a learning process and working with PwC was extremely helpful in testing hypotheses and showing us the limitations of our data. We hope to repeat this research again in two years so we can see if and where change has taken place and where the sector is on the journey towards a more equal, diverse, and inclusive fundraising profession. 

Read Who isn't in the room? Equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising profession here. 

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

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