Attracting a diverse workforce

Attracting a diverse workforce

This article was written as part of a series for Arts Professional on the theme Fundraising for the future.

There is much in the news at the moment about diversity. Like the rest of the charitable sector, the arts is struggling to reflect the UK’s broader diversity, with Arts Council England (ACE) estimating that just 9% of permanent staff in its national portfolio organisations and major museums are from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (against 14% in the 2011 Census). But it seems that in fundraising, attracting a diverse workforce might be even more challenging. I have had the great privilege of working alongside colleagues to develop the Arts Fundraising Fellowship Programme since 2013, attracting a new generation of entrepreneurial fundraising talent into the arts. Generously funded by ACE, we are now at the point of launching the programme nationally with 25 graduates this year, alongside ten Creative Fundraising Apprentices.

We are proud of what has been achieved, with graduates in the pilot year of the programme securing almost £1m in new income, and with our Fellows working across a terrific range of activities in their host organisations. However, to date, and despite having a diversity strategy in place, we have mostly attracted graduates that are female and white. That says as much about those putting themselves forward for the opportunity as it does for the selection process. So we know that we need to work much, much harder in this area.


There is a propensity for fundraisers from ethnic minority backgrounds to be fundraising for causes that work with people of a particular ethnic, racial or religious origin, exacerbating the silos


And it is certainly not just the arts where there is an issue in diversity in fundraising. In 2013 the Institute of Fundraising launched a report with the Barrow Cadbury Trust that outlined some stark findings, including that fundraising as a profession is considered far less diverse than the general charitable sector workforce. The survey, which surveyed 1,500 fundraisers, also outlined that there is a propensity for fundraisers from ethnic minority backgrounds to be fundraising for causes that work with people of a particular ethnic, racial or religious origin, exacerbating the silos. The same was true of those with a disability. Not surprisingly, the report also cited a significantly higher proportion of women working as fundraisers than men (74% towards 22% male). Although, rather depressingly, it was still men rather than women that were more likely to progress to senior levels in fundraising, reflecting the multi-faceted problems of women coming through into leadership positions.

Raising money in today's diverse communities is a growing challenge for fundraisers and philanthropists, requiring a respectful understanding of people's differences. So as I think about how we address this challenge in this year’s recruitment for Arts Fundraising Fellows, I have been talking to as many people as possible about what action we might take and here is some of their guidance:














  • Specifically target the talent you want to attract: The inspirational Dawn Walton, Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company, is very clear in her views that if you notice that a particular group is not taking up an offer then you have to make the ‘invitation’ specific and directly to that community. So if you want black men invite black men. It also helps if you work in partnership with organisations that already have a reputation or trust in those communities as they will have networks that go way beyond those in the mainstream. Role models are also important, as are workshops that demystify the skills needed.
  • Raise the visibility of the opportunity: Dana Segal, an Arts Fundraising Fellow in 2013/14 and now Development and Events Manager at Cockpit Arts, thinks that visibility is the essential ingredient. We know that we need role models and exemplars to champion arts fundraising as a profession and as soon as the initial barriers come down, you naturally attract a more diverse workforce. She also recognises that existing Fellows now need to be ‘on-the-ground’ advocates and champions for arts fundraising as a career, encouraging as wide a range of people as possible into the sector.
  • Build teams that reflect the audience for your cause: Chris Martin, Head of Development at Historic Royal Palaces, thinks that over his fundraising career only about 10% of his colleagues have been men, but that the more pressing issue is to make sure that fundraising teams reflect the audiences of the cause and also the desired audiences going forward. Access to the arts is only a tiny part of the equation. If you want to make your audience more reflective of the overall community, then the workforce has to be too.
  • Support the talent once it is secured: As with any talent, when we attract new people into a sector, then we need to support them. Role models such as Paul Amadi, Director of fundraising at Diabetes UK, and networks such as the Black Fundraisers Network can be interesting support networks. When you consider that there are over 15,000 BAME voluntary and community organisations in England, these organisations alone should be brilliant training grounds for bringing in fundraising talent from the wider voluntary sector.
  • Consider diversity in its absolute broadest sense: We also need not get bogged down in labels, nor solely focus on gender or ethnicity. The Effective Altruism Network talks brilliantly about diversity of talent, opinion, experience and appearance. And let’s be honest, all these areas are vital to consider for the multi-faceted arts organisation looking to get ahead.


Overall, these issues can’t be limited to diversity alone. If we are to be serious, then diversity has to be a business and commercial issue, which focuses on enabling us to attract the best people to fulfill an organisation’s mission and purpose. And that is the approach we are now taking to Arts Fundraising Fellowship recruitment. After all, in a competitive market we need to compete for the best staff, and the best staff are always those that most effectively represent and champion our cause.


Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy is currently recruiting 25 Arts Fundraising Fellows to work with host organisations in five regions across England during 2015/16. 

Special thanks to Dawn Walton, Chris Martin and Dana Segal for their input into this article.