Trustees ‘do not reflect the make-up of the communities they serve’, warns regulator

The Charity Commission has admitted that charity boards are blighted by a lack of diversity and “do not reflect the make-up of the communities they serve”.

It warns that a “lack of diversity can be a risk to good governance” and having a diverse board can help “charities make better decisions”.

“Diverse boards are better able to anticipate and manage risks, seize new opportunities, future proof their organisations and tackle difficult but necessary decisions,” added the Commission.

“Conversely, boards that lack the right mix of skills, experience, and perspectives, that do not test and challenge decisions or ideas, are more at risk of ‘groupthink’ and of losing their way.”

The admission has been made by the Commission’s director of communications and policy Paul Latham in a letter on behalf of its chief executive Helen Stephenson.

Latham was replying to a letter from AmickyCarol Akiwumi, chief executive of Money4YOU, which is calling for the regulator to add diversity data to the charities’ register through its #operationtransparency campaign.

A Commission report five years ago recommended bringing in reporting requirements on the gender of trustees and board diversity.

But campaigners are concerned that diversity reporting was not mentioned in a raft of changes being proposed by the regulator to the annual return earlier this year.

In his response Latham says the Commission “will consider your challenge to us on trustee diversity data” and “we look forward to engaging with you further on this important issue”.

Akiwumi said Latham’s response “is a promising first step”.

“I’m delighted that the Commission acknowledges that trustees on the whole do not reflect the communities they serve,” she added.

“However, it’s concerning that these relatively simple proposals for collecting data on diversity in senior charity sector appointments are still under consideration, some five
years after the Commission originally proposed them.”

During the summer it emerged that the Charity Commission’s own leadership is marred by a lack of diversity.

According to a Freedom of Information Act response to #operationtransparency campaigners, just one Black or minority ethnic background candidate has been shortlisted to chair the regulator over the last four years. This lack of diversity may stretch back further as the government does not retain information around appointments made prior to 2018.

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