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Year in Review 2022/2023

As another academic year has passed, we reflect on the opportunities and challenges we have encountered over the past twelve months and share common trends amongst our clients.

Year in Review 2022/2023
Increased demand for Chair searches

This year has seen an increase in the number of Chair searches we have undertaken. Alongside this, there has been a continued growth in the number of boards we have helped to appoint new trustees. The result of these increases, is that Board-level appointments rather than executive-level appointments have formed the majority of our work. We believe these increases reflect a heightened awareness of the gravity of governance and the need for transparency, integrity, and impartiality in related recruitment processes. When we started in started in 2017, Board appointments were a small minority of our work. Although this shift partly reflects shifts in Carnelian, the need for support with Board appointments has risen considerably in six years.

Bringing on new Chairs from outside the board is no doubt a challenge, and one which requires new thought being given to onboarding and handover. Of the boards we have worked with, the factors driving a search for a Chair outside the board varied. Whether time constraints or skills gaps precludes current members stepping forward, the opportunity for boards to do a full search for Chairs allows them to go beyond existing networks and attract the very best for this vital role. In some organisations, Chair recruitment coincided with periods of change and the recognition that a confident leader with excellent relational skills and extensive experience was needed for the next phase of growth.

Gender in board appointments

Recruiting women into Chair roles has been particularly challenging. Our non-Chair board appointments from the past year were a 50/50 gender split, however all the Chairs we appointed were men. Such disparity on the board is common throughout different sectors (1).

Reasons for this are complex and have been extensively researched. Many women rejected approaches we made for Chair roles due to a lack of confidence in leadership or because, as one of few female Chairs in the sector, they were already over-laden.

As the next generation of potential Chairs emerge, we continue to encourage Boards to appoint senior leaders who highly prize the development of those around them. Such leadership is vital to improve the gender imbalance at Board level.

Need for fundraising skills on the rise

This year we have seen an increase in the demand for Directors of Fundraising and/or Development. This was also a sought-after skillset in trustee recruitment.

According to a report conducted by Rewarding Industries, 47% of surveyed charities said that they are increasing fundraising activity in 2022-2023 and 56% say fundraising has become more difficult in 2023 (2).

The demand for these roles reflects that in the light of lingering effects of Covid, the cost of living crisis, and the need to recruit a new generation of donors, rethinking long-term development plans and increasing fundraising talent is essential for charities in fulfilling their missional aims.

Difficulties in finance recruitment

Searches that proved particularly difficult this year were Finance Directors. The sector has a clear need for more skilled financial leaders who possess much more than technical expertise. In the charity sector, the best FDs also bring missional buy-in, the ability to steer complex change, work cross-functionally and be effective people leaders.

Many candidates we spoke to were reluctant to consider a move from their current organisation, which appears to be a general trend following the end of a period of churn after Covid (3).With increasing costs of living, salary was a large concern for FDs, especially those who have previously worked in industry.

Finance candidates seemed to be most attracted to challenging and strategic elements, many saying they would relish the challenge of solving those problems but not the more mundane aspects of the role.

1. More women on boards, but few are chairs or lead directors – Fortune

2. 40% of charities using tech to boost fundraising in response to current challenges, report shows - UK Fundraising

3. Charity finance directors sit tight as they weather Covid-19, survey shows (

This piece was written by Deborah, a Research Associate at Carnelian.

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