New report: Women in fundraising are missing out on leadership positions

New report: Women in fundraising are missing out on leadership positions

4 March 2020

Women in fundraising are missing out on leadership positions and experience systemic and sector-wide barriers to progression in their careers, according to a report by the Institute of Fundraising.

‘Missing Out: Understanding the female leadership gap in fundraising’, commissioned by the IoF and carried out by Dr. Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, and Dr. Elizabeth J. Dale, Assistant Professor in Nonprofit Leadership at Seattle University, USA, explores the experiences and challenges women face in achieving equal representation at senior levels in fundraising. Key findings from the research show that:

  • The salaries of male and female fundraisers begin around the same level but over the course of their careers the gap grows. Amongst those working full-time, men reported current salaries that were 14.3% higher than women.
  • The main barrier that women experience in realising their leadership ambition is the availability of broad flexibility in relation to hours and working patterns.
  • Women experienced a lack of recognition of, and appropriate policies to account for, the full range of women’s health needs.
  • Female fundraisers are far more likely than men to claim that they have experienced stereotyping and/or preconceptions based on their gender.

Informed through almost 800 responses to an online survey, focus groups, and case studies, the report provides recommendations for charities, fundraisers and the Institute to address barriers that female fundraisers face in their careers. Key recommendations include:

  • Charities to invest in promoting and recruiting diverse candidates to Boards and Senior Management.
  • Educate trustees about stereotyping and preconceptions based on gender, and have a zero harassment policy for trustees, donors and staff within the organisation.
  • To design a working environment to suit those most in need of flexibility, and to be clear on flexible working conditions in job adverts.

The research is one of the key activities prioritised as part of the Change Collective strategy, the IoF’s campaign to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising profession. It follows on from the ‘Who isn’t in the room’ report that found women are underrepresented in senior fundraising roles, despite the profession being predominantly made up of women.

The research will be launched at an event in London ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March). Carol Akiwumi, chair of the Institute of Fundraising’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said at the event:

I am committed to ensuring that the Change Collective strategy succeeds in making a positive difference across the charity sector so that the fundraising profession can be truly representative of the communities we serve. For a long time we have known that the sector has a problem in equal representation at senior levels when it comes to gender. We need to change that, and now is the time for action and transformation.

Co-author of the report, Dr Elizabeth J. Dale, commented:

It was troubling to see that gender stereotyping continues to be so prevalent, especially among donors and board members who undermine female fundraisers’ roles. This research calls on the entire sector, and society more broadly, to not only recognise women’s talent and leadership ambition but to rethink how to address tensions between work and family and create additional supports so that more women can obtain leadership roles.

Dr Beth Breeze added:

Clearly, the current career ladders in fundraising are not supporting all of the talented people who aspire to reach leadership roles. I hope the recommendations are read and taken seriously by all who are committed to strengthening the fundraising profession and its positive impact on society. Together we can make sure that talent rises to the top.

About the IoF

The Institute of Fundraising (IoF) is the professional membership body for UK fundraising. We support fundraisers through leadership and representation; best practice and compliance; education and networking; and we champion and promote fundraising as a career choice. We have over 6,000 individual members and over 600 organisational members who raise more than £10 billion in income for good causes every year.

For further information please contact or on 020 7840 5493.