How to make charity trustee boards more racially diverse
Updated: Jul 24
The world is turning its attention to racial justice like never before, and whilst we are thrilled to see this important topic getting the attention it deserves, discussion is just the start. It's time for action.
We know we need to look at hiring, firing and promotion, but let's not forget where so much power sits in the charity sector... on trustee boards.
So what can you do right now to power up racial justice at your charity? Here are five tips to get started:
1. Write an advert for your next trustee opening
Too many charities recruit trustees by word of mouth, reaching out to their existing networks. The result? New recruits tend to look just like they do. Writing a formal advert can help you recruit for professional skills, rather than people you already know. Check out the templates in our resource bank.
Don't require people to have been a trustee before. The trustee body is 94% white. You're fishing from a racially undiverse pool by requiring previous board experience.
"We would particularly welcome applications from people of colour as we are looking to improve the diversity of our board". Include a sentence like this one. It has unbelievable positive effects: it could mean the difference between you finding an amazing trustee of colour, versus getting a pool of white candidates only.
2. Identify structural barriers
System racism has deep roots - we won't fix these overnight. But what can you do right now? Can you pay travel costs? Can you pay for childcare during trustee meetings, or schedule meetings at different times if some are struggling to make them? Are you transparent about trustee expenses and any other benefits that are available to your team? What actions have you taken to create an anti-racist working culture, and how will you hold yourself accountable for progress? What training do you make available, and how do you ensure that it goes to the people that need it most? Our identities intersect. How do you look out for young people of colour, for women of colour, for trans people of colour? Do you talk about 'BAME people' as a general group, or are you specific about injustice and how you plan to end it?
3. Post that advert
When charities go outside their usual networks, they can benefit from truly diverse talent pools. More diverse trustee boards are stronger, more effective and more representative of the communities they serve. So check out our trustee recruitment guide and advertise your vacancy with us for free.
4. Prioritise induction and training for new trustees
Inclusion isn't over as soon as you recruit diverse trustees - it's barely begun. A great induction is key, especially if your new trustee is recruited into a board where everybody else knows each other. Ingrained cultures can be powerful.
5. Build an inclusive board culture
As part of our mission to get more and more diverse people on to charity trustees, we run focus groups with people of colour (and lots of other groups) to find out what's stopping them becoming trustees. Again and again, we hear that potential trustees are worried they will be ignored or dismissed. It happens in so many other areas of their lives. What can you do to create a genuinely inclusive board? How do you make decisions? Who holds formal power, and who holds informal power? Is it related to their status, race, class and gender? What goals have you set as an organisation to achieve more diversity - can you be more ambitious, and can you make them totally transparent?
Power is complicated. We aren't going to overturn every kind of inequality overnight. But we can start with honest conversations, sincere and ambitious plans, and holding ourselves accountable.
What will you do today to create a more diverse and inclusive charity sector?