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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Diversity and the Scottish Charity Awards

Last week we announced the shortlist of organisations and individuals nominated for the Scottish Charity Awards 2023. To reach this point, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. We are very aware of the footprint that SCVO has in the sector, and the power of events like these.

The Awards are a crucial event to showcase the impact of our sector on Scottish society. They help the nominated organisations with fundraising and profile, but also keep the work of the sector visible with MSPs, media and other interested and influential audiences.

We are quite rightly often asked about the diversity of the finalists, and what steps we take to ensure good representation of the whole sector. This includes where organisations are based in the country, what their work focuses on and, of course, individual characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and age.

I’m glad that people are looking critically at the entries and holding us to account. It is important that we get it right, and I have a deep personal commitment to ensuring EDI and representation runs through all our work.

I'd like to share more about how we've been working to address diversity on our approach to the Awards.

Outreach and engagement

To enter the Awards, organisations have to put themselves forward and fill in the application. The obvious risk here is that organisations already used to winning awards are the ones that end up applying. We have therefore ramped up our behind-the-scenes communication to help encourage and support a much wider range of applicants. In recent years this has included inviting targeted nominations, for example from Third Sector Interfaces and equalities organisations, which we then follow up individually with 1-2-1 support available.

In 2023, we had a particular focus on engaging organisations led by people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, as we felt these organisations had been under-represented in previous years. We were encouraged that 12% of applications in 2023 self-identified as coming from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic led organisations.

Shortlisting and judging

Hundreds of organisations apply for the awards each year. We aim to shortlist as objectively as possible. A minimum of three different people look at each category, assessing the applications against the agreed criteria – we take advice on the criteria from subject experts at the start of the process.

We ask short-listers to take into account the answers and the evidence, but we intentionally discount any information about the diversity of the candidates and organisations, as you would with recruitment to a job role.

Following a shortlisting meeting to draw up the list of finalists, we carry out due diligence to ensure fraudulent entries are spotted (yes, this really happens). This includes input from independent verifiers and the charity regulator, OSCR. The final shortlist is then passed on to the judges for their decision and opened to the public for the People’s Choice.

What more can we do

We should be doing all we can to accurately reflect the sector through the Awards. Following engagement with equalities organisations we have shied away from having a category specifically focused on diversity. As outlined above we decided to focus our efforts on encouraging a wider range of applications, rather than steering the specific makeup of the shortlisted entries.

This can mean that the final shortlist for individual categories is not completely representative, but across all finalists there is balance.

We will continue to engage with networks and individuals representing a wide range of experiences. We are already thinking about what further data we might want to collect about applicants, and how we offer more support to apply.

I’d welcome further conversations on this if you have a view on how we are doing, or examples of other organisations that have adopted a different approach which we can learn from.

Please get in touch with me directly at

Last modified on 26 February 2024