Trustee Recruitment and Diversity

The recruitment of passionate and experienced trustees is at the core of charity governance. With good people, you have good boards. Often, the first thing on a trustee recruitment list will be professional experience. A board may be looking to fill a particular skills gap on their board, such as legal or investment experience. Often when we speak to trustees about recruitment, diversity is not at the top of the list. Diversity refers to a wide range of characteristics. It is of course important to ensure that the trustees you recruit have the necessary skills to sit on the board and this should always be at the forefront of trustee recruitment. Diversity should also be given a degree of weight when building up your board.

Why is it important?

It is important that charities consider trustee diversity when appointing persons onto their board. There are various reasons why. It is important that a board reflects the communities it works with. By having trustees with relevant lived experiences, decision making will be more informed and supportive of beneficiaries. A more diverse range of trustees can help to make sure a charity is fair and open in all its dealings, for example in providing grants or delivering services. Having a range of perspectives and lived experiences on the board helps the board to remain innovative, relatable and agile to adapt to changing environments. A diverse board typically contains a broader mix of skills, knowledge and experience which should give it additional flexibility to overcome challenges.

What is diversity?

Some kinds of diversity are by definition more visible or obvious than others. In its widest sense, diversity embraces race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation. Diversity also includes categories of lived experience which are not typically outwardly visible. Charities frequently consider socioeconomic status and education background as important kinds of diversity to take into account.

How to promote diversity

There are many ways a charity can look to improve the diversity of their board. The way in which a charity recruits is a major part of this, but it can also be improved by providing inclusive meetings, which accommodate all kinds of lifestyles. Has the board considered the time of their meetings as a barrier to inclusivity? Young people may be discouraged to attend board meetings during the working day; women with care responsibilities may require childcare arrangements; access to buildings without a disability infrastructure will preclude persons requiring assistance. The Charity Commission in England and Wales has provided some helpful practical tips for increasing diversity on a trustee board:

  • making use of more active, open and inclusive methods of recruitment, such as advertising or using trustee brokerage services;
  • organising trustee board meetings at the most convenient times, or at different times so that people who cannot attend at a particular time are not excluded;
  • holding trustee board meetings in a venue which is accessible for people with disabilities;
  • having a policy in place for paying childcare expenses or providing childcare arrangements;
  • considering people’s needs for translators or sign language interpreters, or for documents available in large print, electronic readable format or Braille.

Small steps can be taken by trustee boards to promote more inclusivity and diversity, which in turn creates a board demonstrative of all life experiences, reflecting the public that they seek to benefit.