An analysis by CharityJob of 40,000 advertised charity roles found the number of candidate applications fell to 24 per role in July 2021 compared to 100 in May 2020. 

Similarly, a statistic from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published in July 2022 showed the UK charity sector had 927,000 filled jobs at the end of December 2021, down 0.5 per cent compared with the previous year. 

Wherever you look, recruiters in the UK Not-For-Profit and charity sector are struggling.  

It can be challenging to get your finger on the pulse of what is holding back your organisation specifically. We’ve compiled some of the key challenges facing the sector below and consider potential solutions to help guide recruiters towards what may be their answer to their recruitment effort woes, and take a look at their organisation with full context. 

Make Careers Accessible 

In an article with Third Sector, David Lacey, director of fundraising at the Eve Appeal says recruitment practices such as listing degrees or A-levels as non-negotiable in job descriptions is ultimately going to favour middle class people. If the focus is on academic qualifications that are typically completed early in life, then those who were brought up in difficult circumstances will be excluded. Meanwhile, Lacey has also worked alongside colleagues in the Not-For-Profit sector with degrees in fields completely unrelated, such as architecture. 

“There might have been some foundational skills around writing effectively and time management that you’ve learned at university,” he says. “But you can learn those in other contexts as well, so I genuinely feel it’s purely a class signifier.” 

He also shares regularly seeing entry-level fundraising assistant jobs advertised that he would be ineligible to apply for, despite being a fundraising director with 16 years’ experience. 

Lacey also adds that just adding “degree or equivalent” to job requirements doesn’t help – if you haven’t done a degree, how can you be certain the experience you’ve gained elsewhere is of equal value – and how can you prove it to a hiring manager or recruitment team? 

Information like this should prompt all recruiters to examine the job descriptions that they are releasing, and co-ordinate with HR and hiring managers to make them more inclusive. This includes education but could also expand to whether you hold your interviews in an office which may be costly for candidates to commute to, or the organisation putting the cost of any training or uniform on the candidate. 

You may be interested to read about How to Combat Prejudice in Recruitment Using an ATS. 

Target Older Talent Seeking Meaningful Work 

Interestingly, a recent ONS over-50s lifestyle study shows 77% of adults aged 50-59 left their jobs earlier than intended and around three out of five would consider returning to paid work in future. Additionally, a recent survey by online job specialist CV Library reveals more than three-quarters of UK professionals are looking to change roles this year and over half want to reskill, with the “desire for a more meaningful career” cited as one of the key drivers. 

This presents a great opportunity for the sector to bring in fresh talent. Given the purpose behind the work so many Not-For-Profits do, the enthusiasm and experience older workers could bring to the organisation has the potential to be highly valuable.  

To work this into your recruitment strategy, advertising roles on platforms older workers are using will be crucial for reaching them and head hunting may even be required as their use of social media is significantly less than other younger candidates. Customise the benefits package of these roles to appeal to this age group, such as through pension contributions. Highlight how meaningful the work is and how they’ll make a difference. 

Employer Brand 

Whether you’re working with hospitals, shelters, or schools, non-profit work is often emotionally taxing. While not-for-profit employees are dedicated to the communities they serve, the day-to-day emotional investment involved can sometimes lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. For example, nine in 10 charity workers have felt stress, overwhelm or burnout over the past years. 

Therefore, to attract talent, employers in the Not-For-Profit sector need to take a critical look at the support and benefits they are offering their people, which inevitably impact candidate’s perceptions of an employer. Furthermore, this support needs to be something more tangible than ‘great culture’ or ‘friendly team’.  

Example of this include mental wellbeing benefits such as mental health leave days in addition to the ordinary annual leave, or contributing to the cost of any therapy services employees may need to use at some point. These are the more obvious ones, but really any benefit that supports work-life balance or relieves financial stress can be a help to employee wellbeing. From summer hours or flexitime to covering childcare costs, there are many tangible ways employers can show they prioritise their people’s wellbeing.  

There are also many opportunities to showcase care and support in the interview process. A practice that is becoming more popular is sending interview questions in advance so candidates can prepare answers and minimise stress. Recruiters should also utilise their ATS to keep communications quick and timely to avoid confusion or ghosting. You may also want to avoid asking candidates to complete unpaid work for the interview process, as this increase in workload can increase stress, as well as leave a sour taste in the candidates mouth if they put significant time into the work only to fail to progress in the hiring process. 


Hireserve are proud to have supported numerous not-for-profit organisations in their work by improving recruitment with the Hireserve ATS. 

StepChange saw significant success in the charity’s interview processes. Previously Carol Barker, StepChange’s Recruitment Coordinator had to phone each candidate to arrange interview slots. 

“I can pinpoint one particular day where I received and made 137 calls!” Carol remembers. 

Using the Hireserve ATS ‘Interview Scheduler’ feature, StepChange Debt Charity has been able to significantly reduce interview administration: 

“We use the ‘Self-select Interview’ tool, which allows candidates to pick their own interview slots through their candidate portal. Encouraging candidates to pick a time that suits them has helped with no-show rates, and has also really decreased our administration, as we no longer have to go back and forth with candidates over email and the phone.” 

Carol estimates that using Interview Scheduler has saved the charity 30 minutes/application, translating as approx. £20,000 per annum. 

Read the rest of the StepChange case study with Hireserve here. 

About the author

Hannah Elliott