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Trustee diversity

Did you know that 1 in 12 trustees is called either David or John?

In our June 2019 Working With the VCS event – which was held in partnership with North Tyneside Council – we looked at how to work with businesses and the VCS to improve the number and quality of charity trustees in the borough. One thing that kept cropping up was the issue of diversity and how to improve the diversity of an organisation’s board. Following on from this, we’ve put together some guidance to help you get started…

Diversifying your board; can it be achieved?

The short answer is yes, but it will take a whole organisational approach and commitment to diversity to achieve it.

Taken on Trust the 2017 Charity Commission report presents a sombre picture about the lack of diversity on charity boards, highlighting that men outnumber women by two to one and that 90% of trustees are white and older with an above average income and education, 18 to 24 year olds making up just 0.5% of trustees. Whilst charity trustees with an ethnic minority background are around 6.6% which is less diverse than the top 100 companies at 8.2% according to FTSe.

Encouraging Diversity

To achieve this groups must start in the boardroom and be embedded throughout the organisation. Make an honest assessment of how you are addressing diversity and what needs to change to attract more diverse trustees. Put your commitment into action, develop a plan that includes concrete goals, objectives, set tasks and a timeline.

Boards are more likely to focus on an issue if an official goal or policy exists to remind them of what they want to achieve. A diverse board is able to make decisions more effectively by reducing the risk of “groupthink” the psychological behaviour of minimising conflicts and reaching consensus decisions. Including the contributions of people with different skills, backgrounds and experiences, creates solutions to problems that take on a greater range of perspectives.

How can charities use recruitment strategies to ensure diversity in their leaders?

Often people are recruited from similar backgrounds to existing trustees who may recruit people who move in the same circles as themselves, friends, colleagues and existing networks.

There are other things that can be done to improve diversity,

  • Flag that you are looking for people of any age, experience or background, encouraging applicants who may fear they won’t fit in. Make it clear your organisation is open to diversity.
  • Advertise in local colleges, businesses, local authorities, health professionals and other charitable organisations, consider the clients and customers already using your organisation.
  • Use social media and other platforms to promote vacancies this may attract younger people.
  • Consider holding meetings at a convenient time for most trustees, e.g. evening meetings may be more suitable for younger or people who work.
  • Be upfront about the time commitments for trustees and what their role would be.
  • Provide mentoring as part of the induction, pairing them with a more experienced trustee to show them the ropes and answer any questions that they may not want to ask in front of the whole board.
  • Prepare an information pack that includes, the constitution, accounts, policies, a biography of the other trustees and any strategies or planned initiatives.

Your local infrastructure support organisations, such as VODA, can help with advertising for trustees, provide training for trustees and give general advice and guidance about trusteeship. Contact keith.hardy@voda.org.uk for advice and support for North Tyneside VCS.