Diversity at trustee board level still a challenge for charities

06 November 2023

Just half (50%) of charities say they are actively looking to recruit trustees from more diverse backgrounds, a new survey* from Ecclesiastical has found.

The specialist charity insurer asked 250 charity trustees whether they were actively seeking trustees from a more diverse range of social and ethnic backgrounds.

The research revealed only half (50%) of charities are attempting to improve diversity through trustee recruitment, a 14% drop on 2022 when two thirds (64%) said they were.

Lack of diversity remains

Three in five (58%) charities responded to the survey to say they believed their board was made up of trustees from a diverse range of social and ethnic backgrounds. This marks another fall, as research from 2022 by Ecclesiastical found that almost three quarters (72%) were.

The survey was commissioned to coincide with Getting on Board’s Festival of Trusteeship, a week-long series of events sponsored by Ecclesiastical.

Diversity at board level remains a thorny topic. Earlier this year a report by Inclusive Boards, a research consultancy firm, found that three in ten (29%) of the biggest charities have all-white trustee boards. Ecclesiastical’s research discovered almost three quarters (74%) of trustees believed their board of trustees is diverse enough.

Recruitment challenges

According to the findings, the challenge to recruit from more diverse backgrounds has dropped. Less than half (47%) responded to say it was a challenge this year compared to 54% last year.

The overall recruitment picture has also improved. Less than half (49%) of charities said they had found it more difficult to recruit trustees in the last twelve months. This is down 11% on the previous year when three in five (60%) said it was more difficult.

When asked what they thought charities could do to encourage more trustees from different backgrounds almost half (47%) said more guidance on how to become a trustee should be available, while four in ten (40%) responded to say more should be done to promote the benefits of trusteeship.

Faith Kitchen, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “Trustee Week is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the amazing work charity trustees across the country do.

“It’s also an opportunity to encourage new people to get involved and its clear from this survey that charities acknowledge there are ways to reach a new audience and encourage more diversity at board level.

“By encouraging trustees from a wider range of ages, backgrounds and communities charities can bring in new ideas, identify different opportunities and safeguard against potential risks they’re not currently sighted on.”

Penny Wilson, CEO at Getting on Board, said: “This fascinating research paints a bleak picture. It is disappointing that there is a fall in the number of charities taking action to improve their trustee board's diversity.

“We have a long way to go to bring charity board diversity up to that seen in other sectors, let alone to represent the communities we serve. Welcoming a wider group of people to trusteeship presents an incredible opportunity to access more skills, expertise and support for our organisations."

For more information on the Festival of Trusteeship, visit www.gettingonboard.org

* OnePoll survey of 250 charity trustees conducted between 13 and 26 October 2023