Sunday, 8 March 2015

What charity trustee boards can do to #MakeItHappen

This article is written by the Charity Commission Outreach team, in celebration of International Women's Day. 

Trustees’ Week is into its sixth year, each having built on the success of the last by showcasing the great work of trustees and highlighting the opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.

The call for charities to consider the benefits of increasing the diversity of their trustee board has been a consistent message of the campaign. A diverse trustee board is more likely to contain a range of skills and experience than a board which is more narrowly based. Where trustees are recruited from a wide range of backgrounds, we believe that the governance arrangements of the charity will benefit.

Unsurprisingly, in comparison to the private sector we have a good story to tell about the diversity on boards. However various pieces of research over the last five years have shown that there is still room for improvement; room to increase the number of trustees that have a disability, that come from an ethnic background, that are women, and the number of younger people.

Out of all these, the headline figure for the balance of men and women on boards is the most encouragingrecent research put that figure at 48% of trustees are female, and 52% are male.

International Women’s Day is a time to recognise the position the sector is in and to showcase the great work of female trustees.

But it is also an opportunity to encourage more women to step forward and more trustee boards to reflect on how diverse they are. Despite the encouraging headline figure, when we look more closely it becomes apparent that although some sub-sectors do have balanced boards others still have room for improvement.

According to an NCVO almanac, health charities and village halls had the most equal split of male and female trustees. However, out of eighteen sub-sectors only four had more female trustees than male trustees. Take a moment to think about who sits on your board. Could it be more balanced?

If the answer is yes then there may be some simple changes you can make to the way you recruit your trustees.

A study by the Institute of Philanthropy found that around half of trustees are appointed through personal recommendations which can lead to recruitment from a narrow pool. There are a number of services that can assist charities in their search for trustees; broadening the pool and finding those that will have the right skills and will make the best fit for the charity.

Achieving greater diversity at board level may include having some trustees from parts of the community which have traditionally not played a large part in the charity. This is not about imposing modern values on traditional charities, but about trustees putting the interests of the charity first by establishing effective governance.

If your answer was yes - your board should be better balanced, then some of the supporters of Trustees' Week may be able to help: Getting on Board and Reach Volunteering both offer services to help match a charity with a new trustee.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #MakeItHappen; encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women. Take time to reflect on the make-up of your trustee board and whether it could be better.

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