Smart Futures: Gain support and guidance to be confident in the workplace

Charity sector diversity: the time for talking is over

A review of published research by Bayes Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness has concluded that the non-profit sector has lower levels of diversity across ethnicity and socio-economic background than other sectors of the economy.


What’s more, diversity does not appear to be prioritised as an issue that should be addressed, with the absence of a sector-wide push to take ambitious action, particularly on embedding good diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practice to attract and retain young people as employees.


As a charity that supports young people from low-income backgrounds into work, we are especially interested young people’s ambitions and perceptions of the sector.


So, we commissioned a nationwide survey by Savanta/ComRes with 1,000 16-24-year-olds from households with an income under £16,000 (households with an income below £16,190 are eligible for free school meals), to better understand how many people from low-income backgrounds want to work in the sector.


This showed that:

  • While only 7% currently work in the sector, 40% would be interested in a career in the sector
  • 42% of respondents said they trust and have confidence in charities
  • 70% of young people know they could pursue a career in professional functions within a charity


Why isn’t this interest translating into a more diverse workforce? The most common reasons identified by those who wouldn’t consider working in the sector included:


  • 25% don't know where to search for and apply for jobs
  • 24% think there are poor opportunities to develop a career
  • 23% think there is a poor variety of different job roles in the charity sector
  • 20% believe charities do not pay staff fairly or offer good benefits and flexibility.


You can access the full report here.


How do we widen accessibility? As a starting point, the survey flagged several ways to encourage consideration of a career in the charity sector:


  • Improve pay and benefits (51%)
  • Better understanding of the job opportunities available (35%)
  • Clearer progression routes (24%)
  • Knowing where to search for and apply for vacancies (23%)

Our response shouldn’t default to commissioning more research or setting new targets. We must look at why existing ambitions to become more diverse aren’t leading to change at the speed we want. The focus should move on from relying on goal setting, to taking action that secures meaningful change.

Some of the areas we’d like to explore include:


  • Co-designing a programme with young people to help them develop the skills and experience to prepare them for working in the sector.
  • Developing practical guidance and toolkits that are promoted across the sector to overcome the barriers that have been identified.
  • Working with leaders across the sector to reach out and engage with young people from low-income backgrounds to tackle the misconceptions about working in the sector.


The EY Foundation has as much to learn as any other charity and we want to collaborate with organisations who share our commitment to tackling this issue and welcome the opportunity to develop new actions that achieve a meaningful impact across the sector.


If this sounds like you, then please reach out and get in touch.