Voluntary sector skill shortages bite

Oct 14 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A survey 150 top charity chief executives reveals that the voluntary sector is facing key skills shortages - and also highlights the fact that more women in charities are rising to the top of their profession, in contrast to their female business counterparts.

The survey was carried out as part of the poll to choose the winner of the first annual ‘Most Admired Charity Award’ presented by Third Sector magazine and backed by Barclays PLC.

The survey, intended to benchmark the sector and find out how it is coping with the challenges it faces, found that fundraising skills are in the shortest supply, with almost three out of ten charities reporting recruitment difficulties across the UK.

While children's charities find it easiest to recruit fundraisers, those working with older people and the environment are having particular problems with more than four out of ten having trouble finding fundraisers. And surprisingly, larger wealthier charities are more likely to report a shortage of fundraisers than smaller ones.

Evaluation and IT skills are also scarce, with around a quarter of all charities reporting shortages. But half of all arts charities and four out of ten environmental charities reported shortages of professionals with evaluation skills.

IT skills shortages vary by region; two-thirds of charities in the North of England and one in three of those in London have difficulty finding IT staff. Larger charities are having the fewest problems in this area with medical and arts charities finding things more difficult.

A shortage of marketing personnel was an issue for one in five organisations.

Overall, however, charities do appear to be broadly satisfied with the skills and expertise that they have available to deliver their core work – just over one in ten said they were short of people in either management or service delivery roles.

The two awards for Britain's Most Admired Charity and Britain's Most Admired Charity CEO were both taken by women chief executives: Barbara Stocking at Oxfam and Geraldine Peacock, who has recently stepped down as head of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The awards are based on Management Today's long-running Most Admired Company award, which in its entire 13-year history has never been presented to a woman.

Lucy Maggs, Third Sector's editor says: "Voluntary organisations often tend to have a more flexible working environment, which is more supportive of women juggling the responsibilities of families and careers. This positively contributes to more women reaching higher management positions than in the corporate sector."