Charity Commission urges greater trustee diversity

Charities are being urged to do more to promote diversity on their boards and encourage applications from women, young people and individuals from ethnic minority and socially diverse backgrounds.

The call follows research commissioned by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission, which found that men outnumber women trustees on boards by two to one.

The typical charity trustee is male, white, older and with above average income and education, according to the study which found that 92 per cent of respondents fell into this category.

The researchers surveyed a sample of 19,064 trustees, with around 3,500 trustees responding to the survey.

The report found:

  • 71 per cent of charity chairs are male and 68 per cent of charity treasurers are male
  • The average age of trustees is 55 to 64 years, of which 51 per cent are retired
  • 75 per cent of trustees have household incomes above the national median
  • 60 per cent of trustees have a professional qualification and 30 per cent have post-graduate qualifications
  • 71 per cent of trustees are recruited through an informal process
  • In 80 per cent of charities trustees play both a governance role and an executive role
  • 70 per cent of trustees are involved in charities with an incomes of less than £100,000 a year
  • On average, trustees donate almost 5 hours a week to their trustee roles

Reacting to the research findings, Helen Stephenson, the Charity Commission’s Chief Executive, said the results pointed to systemic issues around the diversity of and recruitment to trusteeship.

She urged charities to make diversity a priority saying that if trustees did not reflect their communities, charities were “at risk of missing out on the widest range of skills, experience and perspective at board level.

She added that “diversity of experience, approach and personality helps guard against such problems and enables any organisation to foster a culture that is conducive to good governance”.

Moore Thompson has extensive experience of helping charities with good governance including advice relating to the appointment of trustees. For advice and support please contact us.