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ACEVO’s EDI action plan

Improving equity, diversity and inclusion at ACEVO

March 2021

1. Purpose and vision

The purpose of this equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy is to set out ACEVO’s EDI objectives for 2021-24 and the steps we need to take to deliver against these objectives.

We aspire to be a genuinely inclusive charity through diverse representation at all levels, a culture that supports staff and volunteers to fully be themselves, and to be a charity that is anti-racist and able to demonstrate how we have removed structural barriers that perpetuate racism, ableism and other discriminatory behaviours.

Our diversity and inclusion activity for our staff and board will ensure that we adhere to ACEVO’s code of conduct. This commits us to creating a warm and welcoming environment for all and to ensure that our members, every person who works for or with us, volunteers with us or otherwise comes into contact with us is treated with dignity and respect, and feels that they are in a safe and supportive environment, free from inappropriate, discriminatory, offensive or harmful behaviour.

The strategy will also help us plan how we comply with the duties placed on ACEVO by the Equality Act 2010, which states that is against the law to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

We don’t think there is a hierarchy of oppression: all inequality needs to be tackled. In order to implement real change, we need to focus our limited resources, hence this plan’s focus on the three areas of race, disability and gender. We recognise that an individual’s identity is not limited to one dimension and we hope that our work will contribute to more inclusivity within ACEVO and our members’ organisations for all under-represented people.

Whilst we adhere to equality legislation, that is the minimum activity we undertake. We aspire to be better than the minimum of legislation and we also recognise inequalities such as caring responsibilities, social mobility and ways individuals can be discriminated against, such as class or accent discrimination.

This plan details what activities we need to pursue to meet our objectives and how we will monitor our progress and success in meeting them. We will ensure that our staff and trustees understand the part they play in helping ACEVO deliver on our EDI objectives and realise our vision by regularly providing resources and learning materials.

This strategy is a living document which we will keep under review so we can adjust our approach as and when required.

2. Context

McKinsey’s research on diversity shows that companies with more diverse gender, culture and ethnicity outperform employers that don’t support diversity.

The research found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity experience outperform by 21%. For ethnic and cultural diversity, there was a 33% likelihood of outperformance.

However, fewer than one in 10 voluntary sector employees (9%) are from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds – a lower proportion than both the public and private sectors (both at 12%) and the UK population (14%). Only between 4-8% of executive and non-executive leaders in the sector are from BAME backgrounds. Groups classified as BAME include people identifying as Asian/Asian British, black/African/Caribbean/black British, white Irish, Arab, Latinx, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, or Gypsy or Irish Traveller, as well as those of multiple ethnic backgrounds. In this document we use ‘BAME’ in a particular and limited way to describe the aggregate experiences of (often) racialised and minoritised people categorised as other than ‘white British’.

In the 2020 ACEVO Pay & Equalities Survey, which is completed by charity CEOs across England, Wales, Scotland and N Ireland, 16% of respondents identified as having an impairment, health condition or learning difference. Women are also underrepresented in leadership positions within larger charities, while women of colour and/or disabled women are underrepresented at all sizes of charities.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought into global focus the structural and systemic racism within our society. The pandemic is also creating rising inequalities in health, education and financial wellbeing with people with protected characteristics likely to suffer disproprortionately in all these areas.

3. ACEVO’s progress on EDI

3.1 Race equity

ACEVO first included the issue of race equity in the charity sector as a policy priority in 2017. While we have made some progress in our ongoing work of informing and engaging sector leaders with the issue, we still have much work to do on our own systems and processes to ensure we are an anti-racist and genuinely accessible organisation to staff, trustees and members.

  • Together with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, we published eight principles for sector leaders in July 2018. We currently have over 100 sector CEOs signed up to the principles, with links to published evidence of their action on delivering the principles.
  • In May 2019 we published our diversity targets for the staff team and board (see below).
  • In January 2021 we changed ACEVO’s articles of association to allow the board to appoint five trustees by co-option to give us greater flexibility in fulfilling the board’s skills and diversity requirements.
  • Our Home Truths report, published with Voice4Change England in June 2020, centred the voices of over 500 Black and minoritised ethnic employees within the charity sector and made a series of recommendations for organisations, regulators and leaders, comprising practical ideas to help the charity sector turn decisively towards race equity, diversity and inclusivity.
  • We have written to the largest 20 grant-makers to ask them to publish data on how much of their grants are awarded to BAME-led organisations.

3.2 Inclusion and accessibility

  • In February 2021, ACEVO published its Hidden Leaders report, commissioned primarily to help ACEVO understand what action we should prioritise in order to meet the targets we have on improving disability representation within the team and in membership.
  • We have taken steps to improve the accessibility of ACEVO’s events including adding an extensive checklist of accessibility needs to our events booking form and using the Otter AI transcription service for online events.
  • We also appoint a ‘disability champion’ from within the staff team for any large-scale events, who is fully briefed on the venue and how to access the services within it (eg disabled loos, lifts etc). They are also responsible for handling any issues or requirements that may arise during the event. Delegates with accessibility needs will be personally greeted on arrival and introduced to the disability champion so they have a key point of contact throughout the event. We also allocate reserved seating for disabled delegates depending on their needs (eg access to hearing loop etc).
  • In September 2019 ACEVO launched its new website, alongside a new brand identity. Ensuring accessibility was a key part of the project with a stated outcome being that the website and associated tools have passed all accessibility requirements. Consultants bidding for the project were specifically asked to highlight how they would manage accessibility for disabled people. Prior to launch, a member testing group, which included a disabled member, was formed to give feedback.
  • Eighteen months on, we continue to make improvements to the website, and will continue to do so. Descriptions are added to photos using Alt+text and, most recently, we have improved the accessibility of ACEVO reports with content being published as individual web pages, in addition to a pdf format.
  • ACEVO’s Women in Leadership group meets at least twice annually as a safe space for women leaders to convene and connect.
  • The second cohort of our Jane Slowey Memorial Membership programme, who began the programme in January 2021, is a group of seven women leaders of colour in the early stages of their leadership careers.

3.3 Pay transparency

  • Our pay and performance policy includes a banding system for positions within ACEVO and makes it clear how staff members can apply for pay reviews. We hope this improves transparency around pay decisions and improves the opportunity for existing staff members to feed back to the management team about their salary.
  • ACEVO published its gender and ethnicity pay gap data in July 2020.

3.4 Tackling discrimination, bullying and harassment

  • Our twice-yearly staff survey asks if staff have experienced at ACEVO any personal harassment in the form of unkind words or behaviour, with 100% of staff disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with this in all surveys carried out to date.
  • Quarterly check-ins with their line manager enable staff to raise any incidents of poor behaviour.
  • The CEO has informal one-to-one meetings with all staff members, at a frequency of their choice, where issues can be raised.
  • We have a named senior team member and trustee responsible for staff wellbeing to whom staff can speak if they do not wish to speak to their line manager or the CEO.

4. Good D&I practice

The newly revised Charity Governance Code asks boards to:

  • Think about why ED&I is important for their charity and assess the current level of understanding.
  • Make space as a board to understand current systems, cultures and the broader context.
  • Set out plans and targets tailored to the charity and its starting point. Develop context-specific, realistic and time-bound goals.
  • Monitor and measure progress through a process of regular self-assessment.
  • Be transparent and publish the charity’s progress, including sharing progress, challenges and learning.

5. Current status

Staff and trustee diversity targets

The ACEVO/Chartered Institute of Fundraising racial diversity leadership principles ask civil society organisations to “commit to setting permanent and minimum targets for diversity that reflect the participants, donors, beneficiaries and the population of the area that my charity operates in.”

ACEVO’s staff and board targets are:

ACEVO staff

Target within five years (from 5.19)

Status at May 19

Status at 5.2.21

Gender balance (women:men)60:4093:787:13
Proportion of BAME staff40%33%31%
Proportion of BAME staff at senior management team level 40%20%20%
Proportion of staff with a disability or long-term health impairment20%0%13%

ACEVO trustee board

Target within three years (from 5.19)

Status at May 19

Status at 19.3.2021

Gender balance (women:men)60:4060:4064:36
Proportion of BAME trustees40%27%36%
Proportion of trustees with a disability or long-term health impairment20%027%


Gender pay data

  • ACEVO’s mean gender pay gap is 23.5% in favour of men.
  • ACEVO’s median pay gap data is 30.1% in favour of men.

Ethnicity pay gap data

  • ACEVO’s mean ethnicity pay gap is 23.7% in favour of white British staff.
  • ACEVO’s median ethnicity pay gap is 33.3% in favour of white British staff.

6. Key objectives

  • We recognise that ACEVO needs to improve representation of BAME people at senior levels within the organisation, and of disabled people within the staff team.
  • We need to increase the number of men on the staff team.
  • We need to address our ethnicity and gender pay gaps.
  • We need to ensure diversity and inclusion considerations are a natural and integral part of our key business decisions and that staff and trustees understand the need to address bias in decision making.
  • We want to maintain current levels of staff satisfaction as evidenced in the Dec 2020 staff survey which found zero levels of personal harassment in the form of unkind words or behaviour and no reports of bullying.

7. Objectives

1. Embed an inclusive workplace culture

a. Explicitly integrate EDI goals into our next organisational strategy.

b. Provide training for staff and trustees at regular intervals, matching our actions to our organisational values.

c. Regularly review diversity data to identify key demographics which are not present in the staff team or board.

d. Include regular discussions on EDI within board, SMT and staff team meetings.

e. Support a self-managed staff network of Black, Asian and minoritized ethnic team members (subject to demand).

f. Define and promote inclusive behaviours:

  • Agree a common understanding of what inclusive behaviours are
  • Ask as part of annual goal-setting reviews about what staff members have done to help achieve more inclusivity at ACEVO
  • Include inclusivity as part of the monthly staff recognition award.

g. Ensure we always have a named senior team member and trustee responsible for staff wellbeing to whom staff can speak if they do not wish to speak to their line manager or the CEO.

h. Continue to monitor responses in twice-yearly staff survey to the question asking if staff have experienced any personal harassment in the form of unkind words or behaviour.

i. Ensure quarterly check-ins continue to enable staff to raise any incidents of poor behaviour.

j. Continue practice of offering informal one-to-one meetings between the CEO and all staff members where issues can be raised.

k. Ensure marketing materials reflect our commitment to EDI by reviewing marketing materials to assess gaps in diversity

l. Develop a manifesto for inclusion around disability (responding to our Hidden Leaders report) to include:

  • Principles which guide ACEVO’s work
  • How to request an adaption or adjustment
  • Transparency about how and when that will be made
  • Relevant information about organisational targets around disability inclusion
  • What disabled people can expect if interacting with the organisation or disclosing needs, including the availability of alternative communication methods and formats.

m. Create a wellness action plan in the workplace, to help actively support employees’ mental wellbeing, and to help staff understand what is available and how to support one another positively in the workplace.

n. Review the exit interview process to identify trends of negative experiences related to characteristics.

2. Address unconscious bias in recruitment and performance management

a. Review and formalise recruitment practices, developing standard operating procedures which ensure equity is in-built, ensuring they are consistent with the advice in our Racial Diversity in the Charity Sector report.

b. Continue to monitor responses in twice-yearly staff survey to the question asking staff about satisfaction with their pay and line management.

c. Embed new pay policy, benchmarking and salary banding.

d. Review current salary levels to reduce any inequity.

3. Monitoring and reporting

a. Annually publish gender and ethnicity pay gaps in the annual report and on the website

b. Annually publish our progress towards board and staff diversity targets

c. Publish this EDI plan on the ACEVO website.

4. Sector-facing work

a. Continue to make EDI a policy priority, including it in the policy strategy.

b. Create a more visible/accessible section on our website relating to EDI information and advice, with top level navigation.

c. Include regular equity and inclusion training in our programme and events calendar and encourage discussion within our network to enable peers to support each other in their progress

d. Review EDI components of existing events and programmes eg New & Emerging Leaders, Dynamic Duo, Next Step Leadership, Leadership Learning training etc

e. Work to fulfil the Home Truths recommendations:

  • Write to all ACEVO members to ask them to publish their ethnicity pay gap data as recommended in the Home Truths report
  • Continue to ask sector leaders to commit to the Racial Diversity Principles, including providing a statement about the actions they plan to take. Monitor this annually
  • Publish data from the largest 20 grant-makers on how much of their grants are awarded to BAME-led organisations
  • Work with other charities to develop independent or third-party mechanisms for reporting and addressing racism in the charity sector (funding permitting)
  • Campaign for annual funding to be given to a BAME-led civil society group (or coalition) to carry out an annual ‘BAME Barometer’ survey to capture BAME experiences in charities.

f. Explore opportunities to work with other groups to progress race equality within our sector, eg the infrastructure collaboration group and the Change the Race Ratio initiative.

g. Review and agree ACEVO’s approach to individuals within membership who exhibit discriminatory behaviour.

h. Seek funding for continuing the CEO/chair race equity action learning set programme.

i. Continue to use the Pay and Equalities Survey to highlight the pace of change on equity issues within the sector.

j. Continue to work with Voice4Change England to explore how we take forward the Making Diversity Count joint project.

k. Promote the recommendations of Hidden Leaders report to encourage members to progress in their own efforts to become disability inclusive organisations.

l. Look to work with a more diverse set of suppliers and corporate partners, including minority-owned or disability-led businesses.

m. Review ACEVO’s approach to paying speakers at events.

Roles and responsibilities

We will ensure that ACEVO staff are aware of their responsibilities in implementing this strategy. Responsibilities include:

  • Senior managers to demonstrate inclusive leadership and champion diversity and inclusion across their teams.
  • Line managers to lead teams inclusively, ensuring that individuals can realise their full potential and capability.
  • All senior managers to be aware of their responsibilities as employers in relation to the Equality Act 2010 and other relevant legislation.

9. Next steps

  • Review progress Sept 2021.

Not an ACEVO member?

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