Why we seek change
Trustees are more likely to be named John or David than be between 18-30, a person of colour, LGBTQ+, disabled, or have relevant lived experience 1. The consequence is that boards are often far removed from the communities supported by their charities. This is simply not good enough.
Boards behaving badly
Of the 500 UK charities with the largest incomes, 62% have all white boards 2. Meanwhile 92% of trustees are white, over 50, and above average income and education 3. Fewer than 3% of trustees are under 30. In 2018 in England and Wales, only 8% of trustees are from Black and Asian backgrounds 4 and only 2.9% of all trustees are women of colour 5.
90% of trustees are recruited by word of mouth and existing networks. Too often becoming a trustee is about who you know, not what you can do. Getting on Board’s 2017 report A Looming Crisis in Charity Trustee Recruitment found that outdated and unprofessional trustee recruitment practices are a serious threat to the effectiveness of UK charities. We discuss this in depth in our blogs here.
Word of mouth recruitment results in a board that has recruited in its own image and inadvertently excluded large swathes of the population. This has negative implications for governance. When limited to personal networks and existing ties, trustees are drawing from a restricted pool. They will generally invite those who look like them, sound like them, and think like them.
Part of good governance is discussion, scrutiny and thorough decision-making, which is less likely to occur if the majority of board members are linked through prior friendships, similar backgrounds or shared perspectives. With an absence of diversity, boards can fall prey to groupthink, unconscious bias, and unilateral decision making. The charity sector suffers from weakened governance and less impactful performance as a result.
Making open recruitment the standard
Getting on Board’s mission is to make open recruitment the sector standard and to spread the word that becoming a trustee is for everyone. Evidence suggests that boards that have a range of diverse people on them experience exponential growth and success.
We believe that transforming the composition of charity boards is paramount to the healthy development of the charity sector. Charities need access to the broadest talent pool to function at the highest possible level. This is only doable when diversity is embedded in every aspect of the trustee recruitment and retention process - not seen as a box ticking exercise that equates to lowering the bar.
The benefits of board diversity mean better decision making, robust governance, increased revenue, stronger service delivery, not to mention more interesting and energetic board meetings!