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'Force us to improve diversity', charity leaders tell the regulator

01 May 2018 News

The Charity Commission is being asked by charity leaders to introduce mandatory requirements for diversity on boards and senior leadership teams, according to the regulator's director of policy and communications. 

Sarah Atkinson was speaking at Trustee Exchange, organised by Civil Society Media, last week. She said the feedback she’d had from charity leaders was that the Commission should step in after a report, Charities: Inclusive Governance 2018, found once again that trustee boards and senior leadership teams are predominantly white and male.

However, she said the regulator is cautious of introducing new requirements. 

She said that in contrast to a sector-led initiative, “It’s always a concern as the regulator that when you make something mandatory you can kill all the benefit”. 

But Atkinson said that some leaders had told her “you have got to make it mandatory”. 

“I find it sad that charity leaders were saying ‘this is never going to happen unless somebody makes us’,” she said. However, she added that it was something the regulator would now have to look at. 

Open recruitment 

She also urged charities to consider the benefits of using open recruitment processes. 

The regulator’s research last year found that over 70 per cent of trustees are recruited informally. 

Atkinson said she understood the problem of “finding trustees willing and able to give up time and find the skills you need”, but that having people drawn from too narrow a pool created its own risks. 

“It can give rise to behaviour not appropriate,” she warned, saying that there were benefits to having “challenge around the board table”. 

Elsewhere in the speech, she said that sometimes in charities, “power, control and influence rests in the hands of too few and gives rise to all sorts of risk.” She highlighted the Commission’s recent report about insider fraud at charities. 

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