Women missing out on fundraising leadership roles, report finds

Women are missing out on leadership roles in fundraising and are much more likely to experience a lack of recognition, a new report has revealed.

New research from the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), Missing Out: Understanding the female leadership gap in fundraising’, explored the experiences and challenges women face in achieving equal representation at senior levels in fundraising and was based on 800 responses to an online survey, focus groups and case studies.

It was commissioned by the IoF and carried out by Dr. Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, and Dr. Elizabeth J. Dale, assistant professor in nonprofit leadership at Seattle University, USA.

The research revealed that while male and female salaries generally start off around the same, the gap between the two begins to grow over the course of their careers.

It also found a systemic difference between the way men and women – both working in senior fundraising positions – view themselves as leaders.

The research found that whilst both are equally as likely to be part of the senior management team, men are more likely to describe their job as a ‘leadership role’, reflecting a gender difference in how leadership is understood and how comfortable the genders are in describing themselves as leaders.

Statistics show men are generally more likely to occupy fundraising positions in the largest organisations in the charity sector (an income of £10m or more) and of those working full-time, men reported current salaries were 14.3% higher than women.

According to the research, the salaries of male and female fundraisers begin around the same level (c.£20,000) but over the course of their careers the gap grows. Average current salaries were £42,655 for women and £49,766 for men.

Feedback showed the main barrier that women experience in realising their leadership ambition is the availability of broad flexibility in relation to hours and working patterns.

Furthermore, the report stated women experienced a lack of recognition of, and appropriate policies to account for, the full range of women’s health needs.

It said female fundraisers were far more likely than men to claim they have experienced stereotyping and/or preconceptions based on their gender.


The report highlights several areas of improvement for charities, notably around recruitment processes, which are often unconsciously bias, or based on stereotypes.

It urged charities to invest in promoting and recruiting diverse candidates to boards and senior management and to educate trustees about stereotyping and preconceptions based on gender.

Furthermore, it encouraged charities to have a zero harassment policy for trustees, donors and staff within the organisation.

Charities should also design a working environment to suit those in need of flexibility, and be clear on flexible working conditions in job adverts, the report said.

Co-author of the report, Dr Elizabeth J. Dale, commented: “It was troubling to see that gender stereotyping continues to be so prevalent, especially among donors and board members who undermine female fundraisers’ roles.

“This research calls on the entire sector, and society more broadly, to not only recognise women’s talent and leadership ambition but to rethink how to address tensions between work and family and create additional supports so that more women can obtain leadership roles.”

Dr Beth Breeze added: “Clearly, the current career ladders in fundraising are not supporting all of the talented people who aspire to reach leadership roles.

“I hope the recommendations are read and taken seriously by all who are committed to strengthening the fundraising profession and its positive impact on society. Together we can make sure that talent rises to the top.”

Chair of the IoF’s EDI committee, Carol Akiwumi added that the sector has had ‘a problem’ in equal representation at senior levels for ‘a long time’.

“We need to change that, and now is the time for action and transformation,” she said.

You can read the full report here.

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