How can charities develop more diverse workforces?

John Burnell offers advice

Q: We want to develop a more diverse workforce, but struggle to attract candidates from ethnic minorities. What can we do to reach them?

A: Many charities are not yet fully representative of the communities they serve and one of the main reasons for this is they are often unattractive to people who feel charities do not employ people like them.

You say you are keen to build a more diverse workforce and trustee board, but rarely receive applications for vacant positions from people from ethnic minorities. My guess is that, despite your best efforts, the image you are presenting could be putting people off, possibly at the first contact.

It is important that you reflect the community as a whole, so representation from minority communities, in the staff team or on the board, is important. But how do you get there?

You could try targeting recruitment campaigns at minority communities by advertising in black and Asian magazines, but that will work only if the message you are putting across hits the right note. So it's worth testing your adverts first on people from the backgrounds you are targeting. Ask some ethnic minority professionals to participate in and advise on your recruitment campaign.

Try picking the brains of those leaders of attractive charities that deliver good services and have also succeeded in recruiting a diverse workforce. They'll be pleased to share the secrets of their success.

Consider using recruiting methods beyond traditional advertising, which can often be unproductive. Try running open evenings, meeting leaders in mosques and black churches, and tapping into community support groups.

Make sure your organisation is welcoming. All the good work you have done could come to nothing if, once you have encouraged interest, enquirers are put off by their first contact with you. So consider some specialist training for staff fielding calls when you are expecting approaches from people with different backgrounds.

But a word of warning. Once you have attracted interest, make sure you avoid tokenism. If you do appoint a successful ethnic minority employee or trustee, on the other hand, the world is your oyster.

- John Burnell is director of Personnel Solutions

- Send your HR questions to

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