Top 3 tips for women’s wellbeing and careers in the charity sector by Nova Fundraising

Nova Fundraising is a fundraising consultancy specialising in working with small charities, led by co-directors (and friends) Emma Low and Emma-Louise Singh. They helped Community Impact Bucks draw together their special International Women’s Day events in 2021, joining the panel discussion in Buckinghamshire Charities, Women and Leadership seminar on 8th March 2021. The following blog gives a snapshot of their panel contributions from the day.

Charity careers and wellbeing for women

When we were asked to be part of Community Impact Bucks’ first ever International Women’s Day event, we couldn’t have been more thrilled; as two Bucks-based women who have been fundraising and advising charities for a combined 40 years, we wanted to share our tips on wellbeing and careers with fellow women working in the charity sector:

#1 Working together as women

Nova Fundraising is a joint partnership, and we value highly our friendship, synergy, co-dependence and mutuality. These factors are also an increasingly important part of Nova’s brand and our business values. Whether you are a CEO, a sole fundraiser or part of a bigger team, our key career tip is to have a ‘career buddy’: someone who you trust and has your back; someone who understands your working world and what goes on in it, and can support you through it. We know that work can be filled with highs of being promoted or excelling your goals. But, as a women, it can also be filled with challenges, such as chasing that work-family-life balance or having the dreaded impostor syndrome sit on your shoulder. Having at least one career buddy and peer can be a super remedy to these challenges.

#2 Mind the gap – working together to challenge gender bias

The research study, Missing Out: Understanding the female leadership gap in fundraising, which was published by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising on International Women’s Day in 2020,  reports shocking examples of inequality faced by women pursuing a career in fundraising. With stereotyping by donors and board members, unequal access to senior roles, lack of recognition of women’s health needs, barriers created by requests for flexible working, and few sector initiatives to support aspiring women are all evidenced in the report – frankly it makes dismal reading.

​We urge women pursuing a charity career to take strength from one-another and to take positive action. Find out if there’s a gender pay gap in your charity/company and try adopting some of these techniques which are recommended by the UK Government’s Behavioural Insights Team.​ Ask if your recruitment and promotion processes have mechanisms for ensuring gender and racial equality, such as blind assessment of CVs.​ Ask what can be done to better support women in your organisation who want to progress their career. Good mentoring from a woman in a more senior role is often cited by women as critical in them advancing their careers.​

#3 More flexible hours for fundraisers – focusing on outcomes not presenteeism

Time and time again lack of flexible working is the given argument for why women fail to progress to senior charity roles. We need to challenge assumptions that being a successful fundraising leader AND having flexibility are mutually exclusive alternatives, and that women lack the confidence or desire to lead.​ For too long we have seen employers more focused on ‘presenteeism’ rather than outcomes.

Arguably the pandemic has helped fast track the real possibilities presented by flexible hours and home-working. With the pandemic we have seen innovative community fundraising via Zoom (such as evening meetings with WI’s and Rotary clubs as well as effective major donor meetings). More fundraising and volunteering than ever has taken place in non-traditional work hours, through new virtual and digital activity. Charities in general have been forced to support beneficiaries in new ways, often outside traditional hours or models.

It is our view that these changes could herald a positive step forward in the battle for flexible working. As with all progression however, we urge charity employers to watch out that these new opportunities are realistic and not poorly conceived – resulting in teams having increased stress, longer-hours and being forced to overwork. ​

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