The voluntary sector has the lowest incidence of skills gaps of all other sectors

As well as having highly qualified staff, the voluntary sector also has the lowest incidence of skills gaps. According to ESS, 14% of voluntary organisations reported having a skills gap in their applicants and current staff, compared to 17% in the private sector and 22% in the public sector.

Chart 3: The voluntary sector has the lowest incidence of skills gaps compared to other sectors

Bigger organisations are more likely to have skills gaps than smaller ones

Over a third (36%) of voluntary organisations with 250 or more employees reported a skills gap in their staff, compared to 5% of those with 2–4 employees. This is not just the case for voluntary organisations; the pattern is apparent across all sectors and also consistent over time (ESS).

The Employer Skills Survey 2017 showed that, across all sectors, the larger an organisation is, the more likely they were to anticipate an upskilling need, rising from 57% of smaller organisations with 2–4 employees to 82% of larger organisations with 250 or more employees. This followed the same pattern as previous years. It was also highlighted in the 2007 Voluntary Sector Skills Survey that micro organisations (with 2–9 employees) were more likely to report no skills gaps in their staff (33%) than medium or large organisations with 50 or more employees (25%).

One possible reason for this difference could be that bigger organisations have a greater need for more specialist skills to fill more specialised roles than smaller organisations, resulting in a larger skills gap. However, more research is needed to determine the exact reasons.

Chart 4: Bigger organisations are more likely to have skills gap than smaller organisations

Spotlight: Small voluntary organisations

The Small Charity Skills report is based on a membership survey of small organisations, defined as those with an annual turnover of less than £1.5m, conducted by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI). A total of 952 organisations took part in the survey in 2018–19.

This report examines which skills were rated the highest and lowest by small organisations. Organisations said that they needed most upskilling in areas such as:

  • lobbying (57%)
  • government relations (54%)
  • the latest HR laws (52%).

On the other hand, about three-quarters of organisations rated their skills as good or excellent in:

  • basic IT skills (76%)
  • organisation skills (76%)
  • people management skills (72%).

Fundraisers were the most challenging role to recruit for according to 23% of small organisations.

The report found that funding and finance were clear issues for most small organisations. For instance, salary level was cited as the most common reason for hard-to-fill vacancies by 18% of organisations. Lack of funding for training and development (64%) was also given as a primary cause for skills gaps and 16% gave ‘not enough funds to advertise widely’ as a barrier for recruitment.

Increased workload for colleagues (48%) was the most common impact of the skills gap mirroring findings from the ESS data. Other impacts on employees were an increased time to deliver work (45%) and a decreased ability to take on new work (42%).

Similar to other studies (eg ESS and EPS), training was cited by almost half of organisations (47%) as an important solution taken to address skills gaps. Two-fifths of organisations also gave ‘connecting with a business and using their skills and experience’ as a solution to addressing their skills gaps, although only 13% of respondents had this type of programme in place.

The survey also asked voluntary organisations about their fundraising skills. This section of the survey included organisations with incomes up to £5m, however those with an income of £1.5m–£5m, made up only 2% of respondents. This section of the report showed that legacy fundraising (72%), online fundraising (70%) and major donor fundraising (69%) were key skills that were missing from employees.

The Small Charity Skills report is based on a membership survey of small organisations, defined as those with an annual turnover of less than £1.5m, conducted by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI). A total of 952 organisations took part in the survey in 2018–19.

This report examines which skills were rated the highest and lowest by small organisations. Organisations said that they needed most upskilling in areas such as:

  • lobbying (57%)
  • government relations (54%)
  • the latest HR laws (52%).

On the other hand, about three-quarters of organisations rated their skills as good or excellent in:

  • basic IT skills (76%)
  • organisation skills (76%)
  • people management skills (72%).

Fundraisers were the most challenging role to recruit for according to 23% of small organisations.

The report found that funding and finance were clear issues for most small organisations. For instance, salary level was cited as the most common reason for hard-to-fill vacancies by 18% of organisations. Lack of funding for training and development (64%) was also given as a primary cause for skills gaps and 16% gave ‘not enough funds to advertise widely’ as a barrier for recruitment.

Increased workload for colleagues (48%) was the most common impact of the skills gap mirroring findings from the ESS data. Other impacts on employees were an increased time to deliver work (45%) and a decreased ability to take on new work (42%).

Similar to other studies (eg ESS and EPS), training was cited by almost half of organisations (47%) as an important solution taken to address skills gaps. Two-fifths of organisations also gave ‘connecting with a business and using their skills and experience’ as a solution to addressing their skills gaps, although only 13% of respondents had this type of programme in place.

The survey also asked voluntary organisations about their fundraising skills. This section of the survey included organisations with incomes up to £5m, however those with an income of £1.5m–£5m, made up only 2% of respondents. This section of the report showed that legacy fundraising (72%), online fundraising (70%) and major donor fundraising (69%) were key skills that were missing from employees.

Skills gaps are having an impact on organisations, particularly an increased workload for staff

Two-thirds (67%) of voluntary organisations said that skills gaps had some sort of impact on their performance, slightly higher than in the private or public sectors (65% and 66% respectively). In particular, 16% of voluntary organisations said that missing skills had a major impact on their organisation compared to 14% in the public sector and 18% in the private sector (ESS).

The most common impact of missing skills in staff on voluntary organisations was an increased workload for staff (50%). This was followed by difficulties introducing new working practices (29%) and higher operating costs (21%).

This was similar to the impacts observed for missing applicants’ skills, with 82% of voluntary organisations saying that this impacted the workload of current staff. Additionally, 45% reported difficulties meeting customer services objectives, 42% reported increased operating costs and 42% reported a difficulty in introducing new working practices (ESS).

Chart 5: Increased workload for staff is the most common reported impact of skills gaps on organisations

Spotlight: Work and wellbeing

A survey conducted by Unite the Union found that 80% of employees in the voluntary sector have experienced workplace stress in the last 12 months, and 42% believed that their job was not good for their mental health. While the majority (92%) of employees in the sector believed in the work they do, over a third (34%) of employers did not feel valued at work.

Senior staff are also affected by work-related stress. ACEVO’s Pay and Equalities Survey 2019 highlighted that CEOs in the sector work on average 10 additional hours a week. Many also said they are not supported in their role: over a third (35%) did not have regular appraisals, half had no set objectives and 56% did not have any personal development budget. This combination of long hours and poor support may contribute to workplace stress and burn-out.