Which charities have the happiest staff?

31 Mar 2016 In-depth

How content are staff at your charity? We looked at reviews posted online by employees in the sector's largest organisations to find out how they ranked.

How happy are the staff at your charity? And how do they compare with those working in other sector bodies?

It's an interesting question, and while there is no definitive answer, we can begin to get an idea by looking at reviews posted on the employee website Glassdoor.

Glassdoor gives staff the chance to write a review of their employer, and rank them with up to five stars. We averaged staff rankings on the site for the largest charities, according to the rankings in our Charity Top 100 - ignoring those with less than five reviews.

We found that staff working for service delivery charities and those delivering a high proportion of government contracts, tend to be among the unhappiest of all charity sector workers. Presumably this is because these organisations have large numbers of staff with poor pay and conditions.

This is not an absolute given, however. The Royal Mencap Society, which employs the largest workforce in the sector, and makes most of its money from contracting, appears well-liked by its employees.

So what are the best and worst-ranked charities?

The Top 10

If you want to work for a charity and be happy in your job, it appears to pay to work for a museum, a health charity or an international aid organisation. The top-ranked charities are as follows.

  1. British Museum
  2. RSPB
  3. WaterAid
  4. Historic Royal Palaces
  5. Oxfam
  6. Marie Curie
  7. Victoria and Albert Museum
  8. Unicef
  9. WWF-UK
  10. National Trust

Staff praise for the British Museum includes comments about "friendly staff", the "cheap staff restaurant", "great staff training", "beautiful surroundings" and "not constantly being followed around by a supervisor".  

The few negative reviews include a comment about the “great culture” being a challenge. Although some reviewers cited poor pay and difficulty in getting funding, they unanimously praised the working environment. 

WaterAid’s workplace was described by its 13 reviewers as “positive and progressive” with “competent colleagues”, "great wages", a feeling of being valued and a “pleasant working environment”.

One reviewer wrote: "I love working in a positive environment with shared goals both as an organisation and team and being provided with the tools and support needed to reach those goals. A good social and well-being scene with lots of different things to get involved in." 

Bottom of the table

Care and health charity, Crime Reduction Initiatives scores the lowest of the top 100 charities on the site, at 1.8 out of five. The full table is below.

A total of 13 staff reviewers from CRI complained about issues from working to targets, a lack of infrastructure, poor HR, little staff support and concerns that the organisation grew too quickly.

Another charity to score badly is social care charity Turning Point. A total of 37 staff reviewers gave it a score of 2.3 – citing poor operational managers, low staff motivation and support, poor safeguarding, poor pay, unrealistic targets and winning contracts “whatever the cost”.

Some 44 reviewers gave Barnardo’s an average score of 2.6 out of five, with staff urging potential employees to “steer clear”, with “horrendous” treatment by managers and complaints about poor pay and little training.

This morning Mark Moody, executive director of health and social care for CRI, said he did not believe the picture painted by reviewers on Glassdoor was representative of the views of most staff at the charity.

But he said the charity recognises that “the work our staff does isn’t always easy and that, as a large employer, we may not always get it right”.

“One demotivated or unhappy member of staff is one too many and we are committed to regularly reviewing our internal processes and procedures to ensure that everyone at CRI feels valued and engaged in their work, and is supported to reach their full potential,” he said.

Brett Terry, director of people and organisational development for Alzheimer’s Society – which was scored 2.5 by just six reviewers - told Civil Society News the charity “prided itself on the wellbeing and development” of its staff.

“It’s disappointing to see from the reviews on Glassdoor that four former employees feel we failed them," he said. 
“While we take all feedback seriously, it is important to consider people’s experiences of working at Alzheimer’s Society in the wider context. Our recent survey of over 1,000 employees found that overall satisfaction of working at Alzheimer’s Society has increased - with 68 per cent of employees saying that they would wholeheartedly recommend us to others as a good place to work.

“We offer our staff generous annual leave, regular performance reviews, excellent training and development opportunities and a staff counselling service – indeed, 60 per cent of our employees tell us they are satisfied with the benefits package we offer.
“We know there is always room to improve. We will take the comments from Glassdoor reviewers on board, as we do with all feedback from current and former staff, in continuing to strive to be one of the best charity employers in the country.”
A spokesman for the Shaw Trust - which scored 2.9 by 13 reviewers - said the charity said he was “surprised” by the reviews on Glassdoor.

“Staff satisfaction is important to us and we always value employee feedback,” he said.

“One of our core priorities is to ensure staff enjoy a successful career and gain new skills to complement their role. We have invested in an open culture where staff can access appropriate channels to raise issues. Staff use their long-established employee forum, formed of elected employee representatives, to discuss matters directly with the senior management.

"It is also important to keep staff updated about the many activities undertaken across the charity so they feel part of a team working to achieve the same mission. We achieve this through regular updates by management, an intranet full of useful information, and a human resources department that supports staff,” he said.

Have your say

What type of charity do you work for? How satisfied are you with your working environment, salary, management and career development? Please comment below to have your say on the debate.


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