Finance teams feel the pressure of the downturn

19th April 2011

Finance professionals in the charity sector are working longer hours, work-life balance is getting worse and there is increasing pressure on staff as the downturn continues according to CFDG’s latest Salary Survey, undertaken by independent market research agency Critical Research, and supported by thankQ.

The results, released today, show that 85% of respondents work longer than their contracted hours; over half without any compensation. There has been a notable decline in respondents’ ratings of their work-life balance: In 2010 76% rated their work-life balance as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and now a comparable proportion (72%) rate it as ‘good’ or ‘average’ – a significant downwards shift in only a year.

Caron Bradshaw, CFDG’s CEO, commented: ‘Finance professionals are rolling up their sleeves and fighting for the survival of their charities. These results show they are absorbing the pressure and workload to maintain robust financial management during difficult times.’’

The increased pressure on finance teams may be in part because staff are being stretched as the workforce is reduced in many organsiations. Over a third reported that the budget cuts and recession had affected their recruitment strategy in 2010, and 49% expect recruitment activity to be curtailed in 2011. Half of all organisations have also taken steps to reduce labour costs, primarily through redundancies or reduced working hours. Finance teams, however, have been less affected by these measures so far, with only around a quarter (26%) taking steps to reduce the labour bill.

CFDG has long said that finance teams have a strategic role and are absolutely central to their organisation’s operational stability and long term sustainability. It is significant that they are less vulnerable than other departments to the effects of the downturn. These results reflect an increasing recognition of the vital role that finance teams play in helping their charities to cope when things are tough and to thrive in the better times.

While retention of staff is less of a focus for 2011, respondents indicated that it can be tough to retain certain staff and skills, particularly experienced individuals with knowledge of the sector. The survey shows some charities recognise the importance of attracting skilled staff and are prepared to invest in securing these skills. However pay levels in the sector remain well below their private sector counterparts. Employers should be looking at what steps they can take to keep good staff happy, such as increased flexibility, training opportunies or - if possible - pay incentives. For example, those employees given a pay award in 2010, however small, were more likely to be satisfied than those who were not (89% compared to 79%). Failing to take steps which support staff retention could be false economy given the difficulties and costs associated with finding good staff.

The survey explored the gender balance in finance teams for the first time this year and found that men are twice as likely to hold senior roles, despite women making up 66% of finance teams in the sector. While this may be unsurprising in the wider context, the survey also showed satisfaction levels improved with seniority. Bradshaw commented: ‘I find it intriguing that women are over-represented in lower paid roles where the common assumption is with less seniority comes less stress. This leads me to question whether those long held beliefs that greater work-life balance is achieved with more junior roles are correct, or whether men are less inclined to report the full impact of pressures faced at work.’

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. CFDG is the charity that champions best practice in finance management in the voluntary sector. Our training and development programmes enable finance managers to give the essential leadership on finance strategy and management that their charities need. With more than 1,700 members, managing over £21bn, we are uniquely placed to challenge regulation which threatens the effective use of charity funds. For more information, please see www.cfdg.org.uk.

2. The full 2011 CFDG Salary Survey will be available for CFDG members to download from the CFDG website from 20th April 2011. An Executive Summary will be available on the CFDG website for non-members. For an advance copy of the report, or for further information, please contact melora.jezierska@cfdg.org.uk or on 020 7250 8348.

3. CFDG would like to give thanks to thankQ, the specialist charity CRM software suppliers, for sponsoring this year’s survey. Their support has allowed CFDG to commission independent market research agency Critical Research to carry out the work and produce a comprehensive and robust piece of research.

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