Campaigners formally approach regulator to call for diversity reporting in annual returns

Campaigners for improvements in charity sector recruitment have stepped up their mission to require all charities to include diversity reporting in their annual returns.

They want the Charity Commission to bring in the requirement to improve transparency in the sector and more recruitment of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in senior roles.

The group has now formally sent its open letter to the regulator’s chief executive Helen Stephenson calling for the Commission to impose requirements around diversity in charity’s annual returns.

The regulator “is well aware of this problem, and yet they’ve decided to do nothing”, states their letter.

It points to a 2017 report by the Commission, and groups including the NCVO and Cranfield Trust, that recommended requirements for reporting on gender of trustees and board diversity.

Despite the regulator proposing a raft of changes and extra questions to the annual return last month, this did not include any requirements around diversity.

The Operation Transparency campaign group is being hosted by the charity Money4You and backed by among others Co-op Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation, Charity So White and New Philanthropy Capital.

Money4You said that currently data on diversity issues, such as how much funding is allocated to charities led by people of colour and numbers of trustees with disabilities is “guesswork”.

“The lack of diversity in senior leadership inside UK charities has real consequences for real people’s lives, and we’re not even measuring it properly,” added Money4You chief executive Carol Akiwumi.

Their letter states: “We’re proposing that all organisations which file an annual return to the Charity Commission should be required to include standardised data tables on the diversity of their board and senior leadership.”

The call from the campaign group coincides with a call by MPs to improve diversity data reporting among international aid charities bidding for government funding.

This was made in a report by the International Development Select Committee that said this stipulation should apply to charities with more than 50 employees and include a breakdown of employees by race and pay band.

Last month it emerged that only one Black or minority ethnic background (BAME) candidate has ever been shortlisted to chair the Charity Commission over the last four years.

The lack of diversity in the recruitment process may stretch back even further as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport does not retain information around appointments made prior to 2018.

No BAME or disabled applicants were interviewed for the post when former Conservative minister Baroness Stowell was selected four years ago.

The only BAME candidate to be shortlisted was in 2021, during the failed attempt to select Martin Thomas, who had to resign amid historic misconduct complaints, and the eventual hiring of former Conservative Party parliamentary candidate Orlando Fraser.

‘High time’ Commission acts, says MP

Shadow charities minister Barbara Keeley has backed the campaign group’s call for diversity reporting.

“It is high time that the Charity Commission acts upon recommendations to collect data on protected characteristics among charity trustees and executives,” she said.

“While increased transparency may not immediately lead to meaningful change, it is clearly more difficult to address an issue if we are in the dark as to its scale.”

She added: “A civil society that is thriving and ready to challenge must be representative of the communities it seeks to serve. This is even more the case for senior roles, where for too long we have seen a skew towards appointments of the same kind of figure and the same kind of thinking.”

The regulator has confirmed it has met with the campaign group.

“We appreciate their concerns and will consider their recommendations as part of our ongoing work on this issue,” said a Charity Commission spokesperson.

“Trustees from a wide variety of backgrounds bring a breadth of experience and perspectives that is hugely beneficial to our sector. We urge charities to ensure the recruitment of trustees is as diverse and inclusive as possible to help ensure the continued excellence of the sector.”

Money4You is hosting a free public panel event on July 7 on how charities can report on diversity.

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