The Path to Diversity

9th September

Published on




We all know that the charity sector and fundraising in particular has a problem about diversity. You only have to walk the floor of a fundraising department in a big London charity to see the issue (and often the contrast with other departments in the same organisation).

It’s not just ethnic diversity that is lacking. There’s little social diversity. Virtually everyone in fundraising is middle class. That’s not only wrong from an equality standpoint but it’s also rubbish business. People from the same backgrounds will think and act alike, leading to reduced challenge, creativity and innovation and in the end, worse fundraising.

Everyone in our sector has a part to play in addressing these issues and AAW are no exception. We work hard to help our clients find the best talent for their roles and particularly aim to make sure we are identifying a properly diverse range of candidates for all assignments we work on. We are always striving to do better and welcome being challenged to do so.

We have worked with our clients to eliminate unnecessary requirements in jobs that could put off a wider candidate pool. We agree that it is redundant to ask for degrees for the type of senior roles that we recruit for now.  We’ve managed to persuade many of our clients to drop this as an essential requirement. Our very own Mark Astarita would not have successfully built his charity career if he had to have a degree for any of the roles he applied for, after leaving school with little formal qualifications.

We have carefully considered the issue of whether or not putting salary amounts on job ads is putting off candidates or is even actively discriminatory. We always strongly recommend to clients that they do put salary amounts on adverts; transparency is usually the best approach and it certainly makes the process smoother.

Some clients can’t put the salary on the job. This, in our experience, has never been about a negotiation with candidates to ensure the charity pays the least possible amount. It is typically either about internal stakeholders or about reluctance to attract hostile media attention on salary levels for senior roles. The public debate about charity salaries, particularly for executive roles is toxic. The sector has arguably been far too weak in confronting this issue and making the argument that these very challenging roles need to be properly remunerated. Whatever, the result is that many charities are worried about unkind tabloid attention – and some of us know from personal experience how horrible and draining it is to be the focus of that.

But to be clear, any roles we help support where a remuneration package is not given, we will always reveal to any interested candidate who contacts us or who we directly approach. It’s the first question we are asked, always. No one is ever forced to reveal their current salary before being told what the range is. And to confirm – AAW like most search agencies have always been committed to providing a rich and diverse longlist to our clients and we judge a successful campaign on this criteria. If we don’t, we’ve failed. So, we are very actively encouraging – actually directly approaching - applications from underrepresented groups. And we work even harder in the context of a no salary advertised campaign.

That’s important because in developing our response to this issue we read the research which is cited to support the disclosure of salary levels. It’s from the US (link is here) and is extremely dense, but the gist is that there’s evidence that when States ban the practice of forcing candidates to disclose their previous salary history to employers on job application forms, pay rates go up overall and for women and minorities in particular. That’s important learning but it is not applicable to the situation we are describing. There seems to be no research that covers whether not putting a salary on an advert but disclosing it on enquiry has any impact on diversity.

So, to describe this practice as discriminatory is unfounded in the evidence.

We do support transparency, of course we do. And we are as keen as anyone to ensure that salaries are advertised.  But many charities and not for profit organisations will not be able to do this until the thorny issue of pay and remuneration of top executives is addressed, and there is a confidence internally that it’s fine to pay at the levels that we think leaders in the sector deserve.

This is an important subject and we welcome challenge and debate on the issue. In fact, we’d love to be part of the conversation.

Unfortunately, social media and in particular Twitter, doesn’t lend itself well to a nuanced discussion.  So, we’ve kept out of the Twitter chatter. But if anyone would like a phone call or would like to set up a zoom to talk about this, drop us a line at and we can arrange a time.