The curious relationship between TV adverts and leadership teams

19 February 2021
Standard Content
A picture of a television

Jaz Nannar talks about the increasing contrast between the diversity of charity campaigns and the same organisation’s senior leadership team, and says that we need to have a leadership focus on diversity in order to stop any discrimination that might otherwise grow within the sector.

I’ve seen some TV charity adverts recently where the casting appears to have gone into over-drive when it comes to showing racial diversity. Black and brown people in abundance. Over-abundance even – given we represent about 14% of the UK population.

It’s amazing to see. For someone from a family where everyone had to stop what they were doing and watch the telly if someone – anyone – remotely looking a bit Asian appeared on our screen, this is unchartered territory.

But I have a confession to make. I watch the ads and then I go online to see what the senior leadership teams look like. To find out what kind of parallels there are between the achingly diverse telly ads and the people who have a seat at the top table.

And it’s usually a tale of two worlds. Black and brown telly ads and all white leadership teams. 

It makes me wonder whether the ads are the easy ways to try and show diversity. An attempt to give us roles, feelings and experiences. That’s the simple stuff: spending money on creating and airing an ad. 

The harder stuff: the hiring and progression of black and brown staff at senior levels lags far behind.

If I was a fundraiser at one of these charities I wonder how would I square that circle? I would, truth be told, be wondering how come we are good for the ads but not for the senior roles? Not a single person? Really?

I’ve written about fundraising’s problem with wanting people who are the right fit. Indeed, some of that thinking played a part in the Change Collective for the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

Perhaps this is just an extension of the problem with fit. 

It’s ok for racial diversity to ‘fit’ into telly ads it seems. So why doesn’t racial diversity ‘fit’ into leadership teams? 

That’s the question leadership teams – and their trustees – should be asking themselves. No good taking the plaudits for the ads otherwise.

‘Adverts don’t bring about change internally’

You will know this already, but telly adverts don’t bring about change internally. They aren’t a substitute for proper reflection on who you are hiring and what change needs to come from those who already lead and those who have oversight of your charities.

As I write this, I’m a couple of days on from reading the Third Sector article on NCVO. The one where the headline reads: Bullying and harassment took place ‘with impunity’ at all levels of the NCVO, report concludes. 

I have another confession to make. I felt sick to my stomach for the people whose real experiences make up the headlines. To all those people who weren’t protected – indeed will have been harmed directly or indirectly by the leadership teams over the years – what must they be going through? I have no personal axe to grind. I don’t know a single soul who works for NCVO. But the truth lies in their experiences, the discrimination they have faced and the stories that they will have shared.

‘Getting the PR right doesn’t cut it if the leadership doesn’t match up’

Getting the PR right for telly ads, for EDI statements or neatly arranging your black tiles on social media really doesn’t cut it if the leadership – and inclusion at the top table – doesn’t match up.

Fundraisers are often miracle workers. Taking a small piece of information or insight and creating that appeal, that newsletter, that fundraising application… so that services keep going.

But fundraising and brand teams can’t work miracles on this. They need leaders to lead.

Leading on EDI means focusing on your purpose. The point of what your charity does, who you do it for, why and how. Leading means accepting that it won’t be comfortable or easy. It’s not supposed to be I’m afraid. And leading means plotting systemic change, with measurable outcomes, one of which may well be less of the same at the top table.


Jaz Nannar
Jaz Nannar
Member of the Chartered Institute's EDI Committee and Director of Jaz Nannar Consulting

Reach out to Jaz on her LinkedIn profile  

Members Only Content