How UK Charities Recruit

CharityJob is committed to helping the sector improve how it recruits, both in terms of effectiveness and also the crucial issues of fairness and diversity. To do this, it’s important to establish exactly how charities currently recruit their paid staff. So we recently ran a survey to provide an initial insight into this, and the steps charities take to try to ensure fairness in their recruitment. The full findings can be downloaded in our research report but below is a summary.

Firstly, we would like to thank each of the more than 300 respondents who kindly took the time to complete our survey.

What we did

This study aimed to examine each stage of the recruitment process. The survey, and the report, are structured to reflect the steps that organisations might take when recruiting, and the order in which they would approach them. The questions covered topics including what was required of applicants and why, the perceived effectiveness of the chosen method(s), whether the job was advertised publicly and, if so, how the advert was promoted, how applications were reviewed, the interview process, and the decision about who to offer the job to.

What we found

CVs still dominate

CVs are still by far the most common way to recruit among the charities that responded to the survey, though many combined different methods (this is why the percentages do not sum to 100). Nearly seven in ten respondents (69%) required their applicants to submit a CV. Over half of respondents asked for a cover letter (55%) or an application form (51%). Just under half of respondents asked for an equal opportunities or diversity monitoring form (46%).

Respondents believe their recruitment method to be effective

Overall, respondents believe the way they recruit to be effective. When asked about the effectiveness of their chosen recruitment method, eight in ten (83%) said it was fairly (56%) or very (25%) effective. Fewer than one in ten felt their recruitment method was ineffective.

Those who used application forms were slightly less likely to find them effective overall, (82% versus 84%), but more likely to find them very effective (30% versus 25%). Also, fewer reported them very ineffective (2.7% versus 4.5%).

More than 95% of respondents advertised their job publicly, giving them the best chance of a range of applicants. But this still means a significant number of jobs are not made public.

Nearly three in ten charities have reviewed their flexible working policies since 2020, more than half have drafted or redrafted some kind of equality, diversity, and inclusion statement and more than one in three has audited their charity’s recruitment processes.

Importance of candidate motivation

Something that this work has identified is the importance of motivation to charities. A significant minority of respondents said that they chose the recruitment method(s) they did so they could evaluate the motivation of the candidate in wanting to work in that role and organisation. This makes sense for a sector that exists to help people, but cannot pay as well as alternatives. Charities rely on their employees to give their all, even when they could potentially earn more elsewhere.

Why we care

CharityJob was set up in 2000 to cut the cost of charity recruitment, but fairness has always been central to our mission. While diversity and fairness have gained a higher profile recently, fair and effective recruitment has always mattered to us. Fairness and effectiveness are very much related, as discriminating against some candidates may mean the best person does not get the job. People are becoming increasingly aware of the role that bias plays in recruitment, but it’s not an easy thing to overcome.


“ We would like to thank each of the more than 300 participants in this research. The insights you have provided are very valuable to the charity sector. CharityJob is the leading job board for roles in the sector and every day charities tell us how important it is to recruit fairly, so they get the best people to help them to help others. We wanted to run this research to find out how charities recruit so we can see how much further we have to go, and what else we can do to help. Fairness matters in all recruitment, but especially to charities who need to reflect the communities that they help. ”

Steve and Raya Wexler, co-founders of CharityJob

Over the years CharityJob has produced several publications on the subject of fairness, and in early 2021 we launched an optional anonymous recruitment tool that removes the names of applicants from their initial applications. This is so that all applicants are judged on their skills, not who they are.

Download the full report here.

Tags: charity job, charity recruitment, charity sector, charity sector recruitment, diversity, diversity and inclusion, diversity in recruitment, equality diversity and inclusion, finding the right people, hiring process, HR practices, recruitment process, research

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Martin Rogers