Charities must invest in improving racial equality, says ACEVO CEO

05 Oct 2020 News

Vicky Browning

Charities need to invest time and money if they are serious about improving race equality in the sector, according to ACEVO boss Vicky Browning.

In an interview published in this month’s Charity Finance, published by Civil Society Media, Browning argued that charities should look at reforming their recruitment processes, as well as other measures, to address the “really poor experiences” suffered by some staff from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Browning said: “As a sector we often think we can do stuff cheap and free, which we often try and do. But sometimes we need to say: ‘To make genuine change we need to invest in this.’

“Whether that’s by employing someone from the Black and ethnic minority community to come and help you work through this, recognising that you need to diversify where you are placing your [job] ads, or invest in your recruitment processes.”

She added: “Change sometimes comes with a cost, and that might be at a financial or resource level.”

Growing frustration

Browning also argued that charity leaders have not focused enough on the experience of minority staff.

She said: “As white leaders, the difficulty is that we have thought we don’t have enough Black and ethnic minority people in our sector, we need to get more of them in, then that will help.

“But, in fact, what our report [Home Truths, published this summer] showed is that, when people came into the sector, they are having really poor experiences. So there needs to be a shift in how leaders are thinking about this.”

Browning added that concern about inequality inside charities “has been here for years”, with staff growing “more and more frustrated that things are not changing”.

If leaders “won’t hold themselves accountable – which I’m hoping they do and will – then other people will hold them accountable”, she said.

ACEVO ‘had lost its way’

Browning also talked about the financial challenge the organisation faced when she took over. She joined Acevo in January 2017 as a replacement for Sir Stephen Bubb, who had vacated the chief executive role the previous June.

She said: “When I came in, financially it was in a bit of a pickle. It had lost its focus. It didn’t have a great culture to be honest.”

Browning also said: “ACEVO was not in great shape. It had lost its way a bit. I thought: ‘That’s an interesting challenge, it could or should be a really valuable organisation’. I think it would be a really interesting challenge to turn it around.

“And three years on I’m still here.”

The full interview with Vicky Browning is published in October’s Charity Finance.

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