How to overcome charity recruitment challenges

9 minutes
TPP Recruitment

By TPP Recruitment

In an era defined by ever-evolving societal needs, the demand for charitable services is mounting at an unprecedented pace. However, challenges in charity recruitment are making it difficult for organisations to provide the vital services that communities rely on. 

Ongoing hiring issues such as limited budgets, competition for the best talent, and overcoming challenges around negative perceptions some people have about careers in the non-profit sector prevent charities from recruiting and retaining the exceptional talent they need. Yet, despite the various challenges, there are steps that charities and non-profits can take to overcome the difficulties and emerge with a dedicated workforce full of passionate individuals who are committed to the cause and aims of charities. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the various recruitment difficulties that the charity sector faces and examine the key strategies charities should adopt to overcome them. 

What are the recruitment challenges affecting the charity sector?

With society facing a multitude of crises, the demand for all-important charity services is intensifying. A Charity Aid Foundation Survey from 2023 revealed that a staggering 81% of charities claim that demand for their services has increased compared to the previous year. The research also found that only 38% of charities have confidence in being able to meet the current demand for their services. 

These figures highlight the rising need for charitable support and show sector leaders' general lack of confidence in their ability to provide vital services. So, what are the factors behind this concerning lack of confidence? The answer to that question is multifaceted, with issues like the rising cost of living and government funding cuts contributing significantly. 

However, a key source of difficulty for many charities is recruitment. According to a study by Pro Bono Economics and Nottingham Trent University’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, 43% of charities say that recruitment is one of their most important issues as they attempt to meet demand. With the number of vacant charity jobs on the rise, it is crucial for charities to identify and address the reasons behind talent attraction and retention problems. 

Let’s explore the key challenges affecting the charity sector: 

Competition for top candidates

One of the most significant recruitment challenges that charities face is fierce competition from other charities and sectors. With an ongoing shortage of high-quality talent, it is unsurprising that many charities find themselves competing with each other to attract and retain candidates from a relatively limited talent pool. Charities also have to contend with considerable competition from other sectors that typically offer higher salaries and more benefits. 

Limited financial resources 

Budget constraints may make it all the more difficult for charities to secure exceptional talent. With restricted funds limiting available financial resources, charities find it challenging to offer comparable salaries to for-profit organisations. Limited funds can also restrict the resources allocated to recruitment efforts, affecting the organisation's ability to attend job fairs, host recruitment events, or implement proactive strategies to attract talent. 

Skill shortages 

Another key recruitment difficulty that makes it all the more difficult for charities to bring in outstanding candidates is ongoing skills shortages. The charity sector has been affected by skills shortages for many years, not least due to competition from other sectors, limited resources for professional development, and an ageing workforce. These shortages are particularly apparent in areas which require specialised skills, such as digital, fundraising, grant writing, and data analysis. 

With talent shortages hampering the charity sector’s recruitment efforts, organisations may be vulnerable to a range of issues, such as limited access to specialised expertise, reduced levels of innovation, and increased workload and burnout, all of which are associated with poor talent retention rates. 

Misconceptions about working in the charity sector 

Although it is widely acknowledged that charity careers are rewarding and meaningful, many talented professionals are hesitant about pursuing charity roles due to negative perceptions about working within the sector. Several misconceptions contribute to hiring difficulties in the charity space, such as limited career opportunities, below-average salaries, and a poor work-life balance. 

While there are certainly workplace challenges that specifically impact the charity sector, there are undoubtedly numerous benefits that make charity work worthwhile. Organisations must go above and beyond to dispel misconceptions and create a positive narrative about working in the charity sector to attract those who are somewhat sceptical about applying for charity jobs. 

For charities and non-profits, recruitment can be a challenging experience. However, by following the right actions, charities can secure exceptional talent with the skills to ensure long-term success. If you’d like to learn more about how charities can retain high-quality candidates, we urge you to read our ‘How to Retain Exceptional Talent in the Charity Sector’ guide. 

Top strategies for managing charity recruitment challenges 

As we’ve established, charities are facing an unprecedented recruitment challenge, and with difficulties like government cuts, limited budgets, and a scarcity of available talent continuing to impact the sector, this unwelcome trend is likely to carry on for the foreseeable future. According to our most recent TPP Non-Profit Salary Rewards and Retention Survey, over half of charities and non-profit organisations report recruitment challenges, with 40% of those surveyed stating that employee retention was their number one priority. 

Although the current state of play is far from ideal, organisations that implement the right strategies have a great chance of overcoming the various recruitment challenges. It’s no secret that the charity recruitment space can be difficult to navigate, but by pursuing well-thought-out hiring methods, your organisation can achieve long-term recruitment success. 

Here are the top strategies your organisation should adopt to manage and overcome charity recruitment challenges: 

1. Enhance employer branding 

As we alluded to earlier, attracting and retaining exceptional talent in the face of budgetary constraints and a competitive job market is difficult. Yet, despite the challenges involved, there is one strategy in particular that has the potential to drastically improve your recruitment efforts - enhancing employer branding. Given the sheer amount of organisations aiming to recruit from the same pool of candidates as you, it is paramount for your charity to go the extra mile to stand out with a unique and trusted brand identity. 

An employer branding insights report by Wonderful Workplaces found that 96% of employees in the third sector take an employer’s brand into account when applying for jobs. Interestingly, the report also found that 48% felt that their most recent employer did not communicate their brand effectively, indicating that a considerable number of charities and nonprofit organisations need to improve their employer branding strategies. 

Enhancing your brand identity can give you the competitive edge you need to pique the interest of exceptional talent. There are numerous ways your organisation can strengthen your brand identity, including:

  • Highlight your impact and purpose: Many professionals are drawn to the third sector because of the meaningful work that charities and nonprofits carry out. As such, it is vital for your charity to emphasise the rewarding work that you do. Be sure to showcase success stories, testimonials, and the difference your organisation makes for the communities you support. 
  • Leverage social media: When it comes to highlighting your achievements and success stories, leveraging social media platforms is a must. You can use platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and X (formerly Twitter) to share employee testimonials, stories that showcase the impact your organisation is making, and what your workplace culture is like. You could also engage with followers and promote events or initiatives. 
  • Ensure transparent and authentic communication: Being transparent about your organisation’s mission and values is paramount, as this will help you to attract candidates who align with your unique goals and values. With a reputation for authenticity and effective communication, you’ll increase your charity’s chances of attracting the best talent. 
  • Encourage employee and volunteer advocacy: Encouraging your staff to become public brand ambassadors can help boost your charity’s brand identity. You should empower them to share their experiences working for your charity via their social media accounts or through written testimonials on your organisation’s website. 
  • Showcase diversity and inclusion initiatives: Emphasising an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is necessary for attracting top talent from underrepresented groups. By highlighting the policies and initiatives you have adopted to foster an inclusive work environment, you’ll be demonstrating that your organisation is passionate about welcoming candidates from all walks of life.

2. Streamline the recruitment process

The recruitment process in the charity sector can be lengthy and complex. Because of the sensitive nature of their work, charities and non-profit organisations typically have to conduct thorough vetting, a necessary step which takes up considerable time. Other factors that contribute to the charity sector’s lengthy hiring process include budgetary constraints, volunteer involvement, and restrictions associated with funding cycles. 

A lengthy recruitment process may deter promising applicants from applying, so streamlining hiring time should be a top priority for charities. While steps like enhanced DBS and reference checks are undoubtedly required, there are other time-saving changes charities can make to streamline their hiring processes. Research shows that 63% of time spent in the recruitment process is unnecessary, an eye-catching figure indicating that more than half of hiring time can be eliminated. 

There are plenty of actions that charities can take to make their recruitment processes all the more efficient, including: 

  • Use online application systems to make it easier for candidates to track their progress.
  • Leverage reference checking services to take the burden off your internal HR team.
  • Conduct group interviews to assess a large number of applicants at once.
  • Clearly outline the recruitment timeline and stages to candidates.

By taking the right steps to streamline the recruitment process, your charity can create a positive candidate experience that appeals to outstanding candidates who can ultimately contribute to your success in fulfilling your mission. 

3. Work with a dedicated charity recruitment consultancy

The last strategy we’ll discuss here is working with a dedicated charity recruitment consultancy. By choosing to partner with a recruiter, your charity will be able to bypass many of the recruitment challenges that affect the sector. Rather than trying to find candidates from the sector’s relatively limited talent pool, your team can gain access to a wider network of exceptional candidates by collaborating with an accomplished recruitment consultancy. 

The best agencies will typically have years of experience in the charity recruitment space. With expertise in sourcing top talent and a selection of services geared to ensuring that your charity hires the right people, agencies can provide you with the tools you need to overcome the sector’s hiring challenges. Although costs are involved, charities that partner with recruitment consultancies can look forward to an array of key benefits. 

Here are the top advantages of working with a charity recruitment consultancy: 

  • Expertise and specialist knowledge: Charity recruitment consultancies have a thorough understanding of the charity sector’s unique needs and can help to identify suitable candidates efficiently. They’ll use their expertise to connect you with top-quality candidates who are passionate about your cause and can provide feedback on potential barriers within your recruitment processes to attract the best and most diverse talent for your vacancies. 
  • Access to a wider talent pool: Consultancies have access to an extensive network of candidates, including passive job-seekers who might not actively search for roles but could fit the charity's requirements well. Agencies help to identify transferable skills in candidates and overcome reservations candidates may have about their suitability, increasing the candidate pool significantly. 
  • Time and resource saving: Consultancies handle the initial stages of recruitment, including job postings, candidate screening, interviews, advising on role design, shortlisting and handling offers. This saves time and resources for the charity, allowing them to focus on their core activities.
  • Industry insights and trends: Recruitment consultancies often have a solid understanding of what candidates are looking for and what other organisations are doing to appeal to the best available talent. They can provide insights into market trends, salary benchmarks, and best practices for attracting talent within the charity sector, providing valuable information to organisations.

If you are keen to learn more about why you should use a specialist recruiter, we encourage you to read our ‘Benefits of Using a Specialist Recruiter for Charity Roles’ guide. We excel in promoting brands and showcasing the best aspects of the role, team, and organisation to prospective candidates.

Key Takeaways From How to Overcome Charity Recruitment Challenges

The challenges facing the charity sector in recruiting and retaining top talent are set to remain a concern for the foreseeable future, driven by factors such as budget limitations, skill shortages, and misconceptions about working in the nonprofit sector. However, overcoming these hurdles is most certainly achievable for charities that choose the right strategic approaches. 

To navigate these recruitment challenges effectively, charities must prioritise enhancing their employer branding to showcase their impact, purpose, and workplace culture. Streamlining the recruitment process by leveraging technology and efficient procedures is essential to attract and retain exceptional candidates. Additionally, partnering with dedicated charity recruitment agencies can provide access to a wider talent pool and specialised expertise, ultimately aiding in overcoming sector-specific hiring challenges.

By implementing these strategies, charities can foster a dedicated workforce aligned with their mission and equipped with the skills needed to meet the escalating demands for charitable services, ensuring sustained success and sustainability in addressing societal needs.

Connecting Exceptional Talent With Charity Jobs 

At TPP, we have been providing market-leading recruitment services for clients and candidates alike since 1996. Whether you are looking for an entry level Administratoror a seasoned professional to step into your charity roles, we are here to give you the support you need to meet your recruitment needs. From the initial consultation to finalising a successful appointment, we’ll be on hand throughout the hiring process to ensure that everything runs smoothly. 

Get in touch today to discover more about how we can help your organisation’s recruitment efforts. 

  • 020 7198 6000
  • TPP Recruitment, Northern & Shell Building, 4th Floor, 10 Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6AF