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Talent development is sector’s “Achilles heel”, finds study

Talent development is sector’s “Achilles heel”, finds study

New research with non-profit senior staff shows concerning trends in talent development, as government commits to £95k investment 

  • One in three cite talent as the most important ingredient for success, but 81% said their organisation didn’t prioritise it highly enough
  • Two thirds of non-profit talent budgets found to be stagnating or falling in 2014
  • Cabinet Office releases £95k of funding to enable more non-profits to work with Charityworks, a programme designed to bring new talent into the sector
  • Charityworks opens call for 2014-15 non-profit programme partners

New research from non-profit graduate scheme Charityworks has identified a concerning lack of talent development within the sector, as the Cabinet Office injects £95,000 to boost graduate recruitment.

Compiling research from over 50 charity leaders, Charityworks found that the majority labelled talent development as the non-profit sector’s “Achilles heel”, [i] while over 80% said their organisation does not prioritise talent highly enough[ii].

The news sparks concerns for the sector’s ability to find and develop the talent necessary to respond effectively to social challenges; talent was cited as the most important ingredient in delivering organisational aims by one in three respondents[iii], while 88% said it was very important.

The potential consequences have been recognised by the government, who have identified the need for a sector-wide graduate offer, and awarded £95,000 of funding to Charityworks to scale their programme across the country. The funding means Charityworks can expand its offer to more charities and housing associations across the UK, and more than treble the number of opportunities available to graduates looking to start a career in the sector from September 2014.

The news will be well received by many organisations, as two thirds reported their recruitment budgets would stagnate or fall in 2014[iv]. The Charityworks programme has been proven to support the delivery of better services, while saving money at the same time.Two thirds of charities and social housing providers that have previously taken part in the programme note a return on investment of at least 2:1[v], while 100% recommend it to other non-profits[vi]. Last year saw 3,000 candidates apply to Charityworks for just 30 positions, and the programme has a 100% employment rate for trainees finishing the programme.


Rachel Whale, founder of Charityworks

Rachel Whale, founder of Charityworks


Rachel Whale, founder and Programme Director of Charityworks, said: “Our research showed that eight in ten leaders believe they have a shared responsibility to develop sector talent. I believe that as a sector we need to get better at recruiting new talent, and developing the excellent people already in the sector. Charityworks is a great shared resource, so we are thrilled to be able to make the programme available to even more non-profits this year to support them to access more talent and  bring more talent into the sector as a whole.

“Charityworks allows any non-profit organisation to provide a strategic talent offer, and to save money doing it. It’s flexible to suit different budgets and structures, and the majority of partners report an ROI of at least 2:1 with each placement. We’re currently looking for more partners to complement the current network of more than 50 charities and housing associations, and the response from the sector has been incredible.”

Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, said: “Following Dame Mary Marsh’s Review into skills and leadership in the social sector last year, it was clear that the sector was missing the type of strategic graduate offer so common in other sectors.

“Ensuring non-profits have a workforce that is capable of tackling the social issues of the future is extremely important and we want to support them to have that. With a proven track record in sourcing effective talent, whilst saving organisations money, Charityworks is a model that is well placed to begin to solve the sector’s ongoing challenges.”

Norman Blissett, HR Director, Family Action, said: “Our trainee has delivered a pace and quality of work that has demonstrated his talent and far exceeds his pay scale. I doubt we would have been able to recruit the same level of talent independently.”

To find out more about how your organisation could benefit from Charityworks, visit




Interviews with graduate and partner case studies available on request.

Notes to Editors

For press enquires, contact: Becci Gould, Forster Communications, or call 0207 403 2230


About the research

–       Research carried out via SurveyMonkey in February 2014

–       Research compiled from responses from 54 respondents. Role breakdown as follows: SMT: 41.2%, HR/OD: 11.8%, Senior manager: 35.3%, Other: 23.5% (Other specifications were: Managing Director, Director, Chair, Head of Department)


About Charityworks

 Charityworks is the UK non-profit sector’s graduate scheme. It offers a unique opportunity for talented graduates to gain experience and build networks across the sector, at the same time as providing non-profit organisations with an effective way of accessing talented people capable of having an immediate impact.


How does it work?

–       Each year Charityworks is promoted to all UK universities via a nationwide recruitment campaign

–       Following recruitment, thousands of undergraduates go through a comprehensive selection process to identify the most capable candidates

–       Starting in September, successful candidates spend a year on the scheme as full-paid graduate trainees. During this time they will undertake at least one full time placement in a participating organisation, whilst taking part in the Charityworks professional development programme

–       By the end of the 12 month programme, partners are free to offer their trainee a role, which many do, but there is no commitment to do so

How to get in touch

The programme is now open for partners for 2014. To find out how your organisation could benefit from Charityworks, visit, email or call 07804 066778


[ii] 81%

[iii] 30%

[iv] 66%

[v] 66.7%


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