Charities failing to prioritise class diversity of employees, report says

29 Apr 2024 News

By TimeShops / Adobe

Charities are not prioritising the class diversity of their workforce, according to a new report, and have been urged to collect data on their employees’ socioeconomic backgrounds to address this. 

Social Mobility in the Charity Sector, written by Duncan Exley for the EY Foundation, highlights an underrepresentation of working-class people in the charity sector and a lack of data on the subject.  

One of the reasons for this may be due to a “discomfort” from organisations in gathering data about class, one study in the report suggests.

The foundation’s report recommends charities collect data on the socioeconomic background of their current staff, trustees and volunteers through staff surveys and collect data from job applicants. 

EY Foundation writes that it hopes the sector will become a “trailblazer” for improving social mobility in the wider economy and that charity sector roles become more accessible for people from a lower socio-economic background. 

However, recruiting people from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds should not be seen as a stand-alone issue competing for attention with other protected characteristics, the author of the report warns. 

Funding needed

The report states that while charities consider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as important, many do not prioritise it or see it as relevant to their core missions.

It says this especially applies to the socioeconomic background and urges charities to secure buy-in for the investment of resources into it. 

The report recommends that organisations lobby the Charity Governance Code to include a referenced list of characteristics, including protected characteristics and socioeconomic background.  

EY Foundation said that in response to the report, it will take an action-based approach to tackling recruitment, retention, and progression in the charity sector related to socioeconomic background.

It has also created a survey it is encouraging charities to complete to help identify the early talent pathways available to people looking to enter the sector. 

Exley, author of the report, told Civil Society: “While many – but not all – charities have taken their eyes off this particular ball, there are factors that make it hard for them to take action, not least funders’ reluctance to fund the sorts of HR resources and professional development that could make a difference.

“Sometimes, feeling pressure to constantly deliver immediate wins means there’s little resource or headspace to nurture long-term organisational effectiveness.”

Charity jobs favour graduates

The report says that internet searches for charity jobs could be leading young people to think that careers in the sector are solely for graduates, with a search for “career charity sector” producing links to pages about “getting a graduate charity job”. 

It highlights an ACEVO study that found one in six charity CEOs are privately educated.

Another issue for working-class people looking to enter the charity sector is a potential lack of volunteering experience, the report says, due to their location or inability to undertake unpaid work. 

It adds that early-career roles in the charity sector are most likely to offer low pay and low security which could deter people from working-class backgrounds. 

With some jobs perhaps being funded by time-limited grants, Exley writes that insecurity is a particular deterrent to individuals who lack a family willing to support them between jobs. 

Civil Society conducted an independent study of 250 large charities in 2022 and found none had reported on their class pay gap, with only Teach First beginning to do so.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the free Civil Society daily news bulletin here.

More on