Research highlights lack of diversity among charity trustees

Jonathan Knott, 14.11.2017
More than 90% are white, older and above average education
The lack of diversity among charity trustees in the UK has been laid bare by new research commissioned by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission.

The research found that men outnumber women trustees on boards by two to one and that 92% of trustees are white, older and above average income and education.

It is based on answers from around 3,500 trustees across the country, from a sample of more than 19,000 surveyed in January.

“Trustees are drawn from a narrow cross section of the communities that they serve,” concluded the report. “There is clearly a need to promote greater diversity within charity trustee boards.”

The findings echo a 2015 report from the Museum Consultancy, commissioned by Arts Council England, which found that women and black and minority ethnic people were under-represented on Major Partner Museum boards.

The research also found that in 80% of charities, trustees play both a governance role and an executive role, with no staff or volunteers to support them.

Another finding was that they are “overly reliant” on their fellow trustees for recruitment of new trustees and as sources of advice and support. It warned that “there is a danger that charity trustee boards might become myopic in their views and in their decision-making”.

“There is no room for complacency about the state of trusteeship," said Helen Stephenson, the Commission’s chief executive. "Trustees do not reflect the communities charities serve. Charities are therefore at risk of missing out on the widest range of skills, experience and perspective at board level – indeed trustees themselves report lacking key skill areas, including digital.”

“I welcome this extensive and rigorous research and hope its findings act as a catalyst for action by charities to promote diverse trusteeship, and to better support existing trustees in their work.”