The Charity Commission has responded to an open letter sent to it in July by Money4YOU’s #OperationTransparency, urging the Commission to monitor the diversity of charity trustees and senior executives across a range of protected characteristics.
The formal response from the Commission, dated 8 August, acknowledges the severity of the issue and commits the proposal to consideration. While the Commission has made no policy commitments Money4YOU hopes its openness to addressing the issue will encourage others affected and interested to continue adding their own views.
The proposal is being considered as part of the consultation on changes to the Annual Return, a consultation, which does not explicitly mention diversity. This closed on 1 September, with the Commission’s response stating that it would be making decisions on future questions for the Annual Return after reviewing issues raised through the responses, including considering the legal basis for us collecting certain types of data and the time requirement for charities to complete their Annual Return.
The letter acknowledges:
“We know that a lack of diversity can be a risk to good governance. Having a diverse group of people on boards, in terms of background and experience, but also in outlook and personality, helps charities make better decisions…. 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.”
It also states that the Commission coordinated Trustees Week in November 2021 with a focus on diversity in all its forms and encouraging people from a greater range of backgrounds to consider being a trustee. It says it has also published blogs and videos by trustees from diverse backgrounds talking about their positive experiences of helping to run charities, as well as some of the barriers they had faced, and that since then it has been engaging with stakeholders in the charity sector to further understand the opportunities to increase the diversity of trustees as well as the barriers.
More widely it says it has:
“…an ambitious ongoing agenda, working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a range of stakeholders, to expand the range of data available to policymakers and others about the voluntary sector.”
AmickyCarol Akiwumi MBE, founder and CEO of Money4YOU commented:
“This is a promising first step, and I’m delighted the Commission acknowledges that trustees on the whole do not reflect the communities they serve. 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.”
“The Charity Commission needs to explain why they believe diversity data isn’t necessary. The burden of proof should lie with those defending the status quo.”
The proposal to collect and publish information on trustee diversity was included in an official report in 2017.
Over the next six months, Money4YOU has committed to bringing this conversation into the public domain as much as possible. Through a programme of events, research, and campaigning toolkits it will provide resources for engaging in the debate about diversity transparency in the charity sector. We’re keen to continue engaging a broad range of interested people and organisations and to encourage others to commit to communicating their views about this issue.
“I urge both the Commission, Funders and our sector colleagues to make an honest assessment of the tools that we need to improve diversity, equality, and inclusion. This is not a difficult step for us to take if we take it together.”
Read more on #OperationTransparency here.