How Diverse is your Board of Trustees?

15th November 2017

How Diverse is your Board of Trustees?

This week is Trustees’ Week, and one of the key messages this year is promoting diversity on charity boards.

Higgs & Sons’ Head of Charity & Not for Profit, Kirsty McEwen, says diversity is not simply about ticking the ‘one of everything’ box, but more about reflecting the makeup of a charity’s beneficiaries, local community and their constitution.

“It’s not a question of positively discriminating to include a shopping list of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, background or disability - diversity is an inclusive melting pot of the community each charity serves.”

“Diversity on any board of trustees is important because it will facilitate an improvement in a board’s performance and help it play its part in fulfilling the charity’s mission statement.”

Kirsty added that in order to achieve diversity, boards of trustees need to look first at the sort of trustee they would like to attract and the skills they would ideally bring. Carrying out a skills audit is an ideal way to do this and is something we have assisted our charity clients with to successfully increase diversity and the effectiveness of their board.

“Boards need to look again at how and where they recruit, perhaps cast their nets wider, open themselves up to other groups and applicants. They can also think about whether they can tap into links in the wider sector to find and attract new trustees. Breaking out from the comfort of doing things how they’ve always done them will inevitably result in a more diverse outcome, which can only be a good thing.”

Kirsty added, “There are a number of ways to deal with difficulties with diversity on your trustee board. For example

  • reviewing your charity’s constitutional structure and identifying amendments to facilitate diversity
  • reviewing how and where your trustee recruitment takes place
  • carrying out a skills audit to identify any skills gap on the board
  • having a trustee induction pack in place to ensure all new trustees understand their role and the charity’s objectives from day one
  • trustee training – specifically on the issue of diversity but also on other issues important to the sector to ensure all of the trustees keep up-to-date.”

Are you a charity that has trouble recruiting trustees, promoting diversity on your trustee board or would you like assistance with any of the steps set out above? These are all issues our Charity and Not for Profit team at Higgs & Sons can help with.

Are you a trustee, and if so, what is your background and why do you do it? Share your story on the Higgs & Sons Twitter or Facebook pages, #IamaTrustee. Or contact Higgs & Sons to request a copy of our ‘A guide for Charity Trustees’.

According to the Trustees’ Week website:

  • there are approximately 196,000 charities in the UK (167,000 charities in England and Wales, 24,000 in Scotland, 5,000 registered in Northern Ireland)
  • there are just over 1 million trustees (of which some 850,000 are in England and Wales, 180,000 in Scotland and 30,000 in Northern Ireland)
  • from NCVO and CCNI research, we know just under half the UK’s trustees are women
  • the average trustee in England and Wales is 59 years old, and 55 in Northern Ireland
  • there are many young trustees too with some 86,000 trustee positions held by 16-34 year olds (of which 2,611 in Northern Ireland).

For further information, guidance or advice contact Kirsty McEwen or click here.


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