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A role that has purpose: Retention and talent attraction in the charity sector

By Kace O'Neill | |7 minute read
A Job Role That Has Purpose Retention And Talent Attraction In The Charity Sector

Compared to other industries, retention and talent attraction in the charitable fundraising sector has a unique formula that helps them bring in young workers.

HR Leader recently spoke to Katherine Raskob, chief executive of the Fundraising Institute Australia, to discuss the difficulty that a number of sectors are facing in terms of grappling with the skills gap.

The charity and fundraising sector, like many across Australia, is grappling with the significant skills gap that is hamstringing industries from reaching their desired economic and business outcomes. This has forced the hand of organisations to approach retention and talent attraction with new strategies.


The charity sector has unique attributes that can motivate workers, both young and old. A key point of difference that the sector has is that the job roles have a real-world purpose and supports important societal causes across Australia.

“The charitable fundraising sector, the not-for-profit sector, is sort of similar to every other sector. It’s hard to attract and retain talent. But in other ways, a couple of things help the charitable sector, such as an increasing amount of people, like new graduates, they want to have a role that has purpose,” Raskob said.

“We’re seeing that a lot, with younger generations coming through thinking about working for a charity or the not-for-profit sector because they love the idea that their contribution will make a significant impact and a difference.”

Young workers coming through have intrinsic motivations beyond the strictly ‘salary’ inclined mindset that perhaps employers who are recruiting young workers have become accustomed to. Pitching to young talent that their work will be of the benefit to a number of people and causes is a unique incentive that the charity sector has in its repertoire.

“Rather than lining shareholders’ pockets of a big bank or whatever, they’re actually making a difference. And I think that’s a key part of being able to attract and retain people in the charitable sector,” Raskob said.

Across all workplaces, employees yearn for flexibility; it is a key motivator for workers as it creates that opportunity for a cohesive work/life balance. This is another mainstay in the charitable sector and has resulted in a diverse workforce coming together.

“Charities have traditionally, even before COVID-19, been very flexible with their employees, and also, there are a lot of women in the charitable sector. They’ve often been very open to flexible working, part-time, or contract work, or whatever it is. So, I think that flexibility is a key attraction for charities and for people to work in charities and for charities to retain their talent,” Raskob said.

“A lot of them are very innovative in their approaches. So that innovation focus means that I think employees or talent in those charities can really get a taste for what it’s like to work in an organisation that’s constantly trying to grow and improve and do more with a lot less money.”

A difficulty that can be a roadblock for the charitable sector is that there is not a traditional pathway in place for younger workers to enter the sector, compared to other sectors that have established processes through universities or polytechnics.

“You don’t think about becoming a fundraiser. There’s not a direct career pathway for that. There’s a career pathway for being a lawyer or doctor, or other businesses. But I think a lot of people don’t think, ‘Oh, I’d like to work in a charity, and I’d like to work as a fundraiser.’ Which is why attracting those young workers through innovative ways is crucial,” Raskob said.

Attracting older workers from different sectors has proven to have had an uptick over the past couple of years, going back to that purpose-based incentive. A lot of older workers who have perhaps achieved a successful career in their previous field are now seeking out a job in the charitable sector to, in a way, give back before they retire.

“Since COVID-19, people are thinking again about what they want to do and what impact they want to make. And I think even older workers in the for-profit sector, they might get to a point where they say, ‘I’ve had enough, I think I’ve had a really good career up to now, but I now actually want to make a difference’,” Raskob said.

“Therefore, they’re looking at the charitable sector differently and in a more attractive way. I think COVID-19 has allowed us to think a little bit more about the impact we want to make and the legacy we want to leave and how we want to enjoy our work, as opposed to just the day-to-day sort of drudgery of working.”

Overall, the charitable sector, like all sectors, is grappling with the skills gap. But, they are also deploying their unique advantages to attract and retain their talent, provided the working landscape has shifted from that strictly salary-based mindset to other motivators that can’t be achieved through a chequebook.

Another fundamental aspect is that Australia itself resonates with the sector, with a key figure of Australian culture being that of generosity and support for those in need. This amplifies that incentive towards workers.

“Australia is a very generous and philanthropic-minded country. And potentially, people are thinking that they really want to make more of a difference,” Raskob said.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.