If you ask most charities who they are missing from their boards, they will start to list the skills they need (finance, fundraising, HR, legal and so on) or perhaps areas of expertise (such as aspects of healthcare, conservation, international development). Few will describe how they really need to get more diverse voices on their boards – whether this is women, younger people, people with lived experience, or other minority groups. Some charities are well aware of how “un-diverse” their boards are, but are uncomfortable talking about it. Others have never given it much thought.
One of the primary reasons for this lack of diversity is that 90% of charities recruit most of their trustees through word-of-mouth and existing networks (Getting on Board research 2017). If you are white, male and near retirement – as the majority of trustees are – it is highly likely that most of your network is also white, male and near retirement. Of course, this way of recruitment also leads to charities struggling to get the diversity of skills they need: skills, experiences and diversity are inextricably linked.
Getting on Board would also like to do some targeted work to increase the under-representation of “young” people (under 40s) on charity boards. I’d really value any thoughts and comments on this. What do we need to do to encourage younger people onto boards? We have lots of expertise and thoughts ourselves (most trustees we place are between 25 and 50) but I’d really value your input. Are the main barriers practical (times of meetings, childcare), low profile of trusteeship, concerns about time commitment and liability, a perception by both potential trustees and charities that older people have more to offer or are there other barriers we need to tackle?