Recruitment and retention challenges for the charity sector

Published by Kimberley Foulkes on 7 November 2023

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For charities looking to recruit, attracting young people is often easy, but retaining them as their career grows can be more challenging.  

People tend to move on in their career as they look for new challenges, gain experience, learn new skills and as they need to earn more money, which can be hard for the charity sector to compete with, so what is the answer? 

The answer lies in communicating to your team the many of the things you offer as an employer which are unique to your organisation and the wider charity sector and for people who are passionate about working towards social change, they will value these benefits.  

Build a strong team 

Many people stay in a role because they enjoy working as part of a team and feel a part of the ‘family’. For many people this can be the first time that they fit in with like-minded and similarly motivated individuals, so work hard to foster and build a strong team culture.  

Being an open and transparent organisation also allows people to build trust in you as an employer and encouraging everyone to have a say can avoid feelings of frustration.  

Young people often bring with them a different skill set and insight into a problem or issue, so don’t be afraid to change processes and procedures if there is a strong business case based on their recommendation, knowledge, and ability. 

People can also be their true, authentic self and work in a role which is completely in line with their personal values, especially where there is greater flexibility on working hours and remote working.  

Personal wellbeing is also high up on employee’s goals. If your organisation can find a way to help individual employees achieve a good work/life balance, then they will have a better understanding of the personal career journey they are on and they will be more likely to stay with your organisation to achieve it.  

Charities are also more likely to celebrate wins for the individual as well as for the organisation and combined with a stronger voice, employees feel less like a ‘cog in the corporate wheel’. 

Make recruitment a central part of your fundraising strategy 

Fundraising strategies should focus on the longer-term sustainability of the charity to allow for them to fund and nurture their leaders of tomorrow. Succession planning in a charity is no less important than it is in any business.  

Stability is important and whilst many charities employ people on a fixed term contract there is much that can be done during this period to help it to upskill the employee and prepare them for the next role (hopefully within the organisation). For example, taking them to meetings, helping to broaden their network and experience, mentoring, knowledge sharing and engaging with them are all important and valuable to someone early on in their career.  

Think about opportunities to let your rising stars shine for example presenting ideas to the wider team, trustees, or funders, having projects they can own and lead on. Consider whether there might be opportunities to collaborate with other organisations to share skills and knowledge and to provide wider experience for them, possibly even short-term secondments to help see you through funding or project gaps. 

Finally make sure you have the support systems in place to review individuals progress and to help them to set and review annual goals and objectives. There are lots of useful and free resources available for charities to help with staff training and development as well as the essential financial information which many working in the sector need to understand. Here at Kreston Reeves, we run events each year and have a number of resources online.

To find out more about the work we do with charities, click here.

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