Attracting a Diverse Workforce - What Do We Need to Consider in Arts Fundraising?

Attracting a Diverse Workforce - What Do We Need to Consider in Arts Fundraising?

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post.

Like the rest of the charitable sector, the arts is struggling to reflect the UK's broader diversity. Arts Council England (ACE) estimates that just 9% of permanent staff in its National Portfolio Organisations and major museums are from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. But in our fundraising teams, it seems that attracting a diverse workforce might be even more challenging.

To explore some ideas, I spoke to Paul Amadi, a charity fundraising expert and one of the founders of the Black Fundraisers' Network at the Institute of Fundraising.

According to recent reports, fundraising as a profession is far less diverse than the general charitable sector workforce, why are we facing this problem?

Paul Amadi
The bottom line is that the fundraising profession, and by this I mean individual charities and representative bodies, have consistently failed to reach out and engage with BAME communities to sell fundraising as a career. Worse, due to complacency and a lack of ambition, the charity sector has failed to recognise this sufficiently, which makes hope for improvement limited. My recent attendance at the Institute of Fundraising Convention, the annual showpiece for the fundraising profession showed the usual depressing lack of BAME engagement either as delegates or as speakers. Going forward, the sector needs to work much harder, both in terms of creating engagement strategies and showcasing role models.

Those from ethnic minority backgrounds seem to gravitate to fundraising for causes that work with people of a particular ethnic, racial or religious origin, is this exacerbating the silos?

It's true that individuals gravitate to where they feel most welcome and where they feel they've the best possible chance of success. It's not surprising if they've tried and failed to engage with more 'mainstream' causes and found it difficult, as appears to be the case. This is a symptom of a failing system, not the cause.

With talent in fundraising so highly sought after, how can we encourage charities to make more 'risky' appointments, looking at diversity in its broadest sense?

I think that there are three things here; firstly, by proving the business case for diversity - multiple studies confirm that diverse teams are more innovative and productive than homogenous groups, secondly by consistently reminding the charity sector that it must live its values and create workforces that reflect the groups that they serve and thirdly by learning from the commercial sector which is arguably leading the way in its explicit focus on diversity. To improve we have to actively seek to create change.

There are a higher proportion of female fundraisers (74%) than male, but figures suggest that men then surpass women to the more senior jobs. How can we seek a better balance?

To be fair, gender imbalances are apparent in all aspects of society, but the charity and art sector's expectations and practices should unequivocally be at a higher level than elsewhere. Part of the solution is about encouraging ambition on behalf of all aspiring fundraisers and showcasing role models. I'm exceptionally proud of the fact that my last two senior management teams have been all female.

Raising money in today's diverse communities is a growing challenge for fundraising, requiring a respectful understanding of people's differences - how do we improve approaches in the arts?

We can certainly improve, but whatever 'better' approach to training is developed has to be grounded in dialogue with the diverse communities that we are seeking to raise funds from. We need to have two-way conversations with the people that we're trying to interest in our causes, something that has not been happening of late. It's obvious to say, but audiences for the arts have the potential to be both consumers of the art and donors. If we ignore one aspect or the other, we lose the chance of engagement.

How do we specifically target the talent we want to attract to arts fundraising teams?

For me, this is a particularly troubling and challenging issue as the level of BAME engagement in the arts appears to be decreasing relative to other groups so this provides a deteriorating platform from which to recruit the next generation of talented young fundraisers.

This complex situation requires a multi faceted approach, predicated on lowering entry barriers to the profession, without compromising standards, engaging with target communities more systematically and greater sector effort highlighting that a career in arts fundraising is as attractive and fulfilling and prestigious as a career in any other profession. That's where programmes like the Arts Fundraising Fellowships programme supported by Arts Council England become so important as a training ground, but there is scope for much further development.

Do you agree that the issue of diversity (in its broadest sense) has to be both a business and commercial issue, focussing on enabling us to attract the best people to fulfil an organisation's mission and purpose?

Yes and yes!

How do we best support diverse talent once it is secured?

By recognising that the game has changed! Organisations everywhere need to embrace the fact that young talent is now more mobile, agile and career minded and therefore more demanding of their 'host' organisation. It's an entirely different conversation now with team members, which is as much about what employers can do to enhance the skillsets of employees, as it is about what contributions are expected of staff. In a nutshell - the organisation itself needs to work much harder to retain and motivate talent. It comes back to the need for a two way conversation between host organisation and employee about what support, development and training is needed to ensure better retention of talent.

  • Michelle Wright is the Founder and CEO of fundraising and development enterprise Cause4 and is Programme Director for Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy
  • Paul Amadi is the Executive Director of Fundraising at the MS Society and one of the Founders of the Black Fundraisers Network at the Institute of Fundraising.