12 April, 2018

Diversity isn't about being charitable

  • Analysis of candidate placements by Green Park to trustee boards of charitable organisations between 2015 and 2017 reveals 24% were from a BAME ethnocultural background compared to the current representation of 8% across the industry as a whole
  • Placements of BAME and female candidates into senior roles are helping charities close the diversity gap at board level
  • But there’s a risk of ‘recruitment fatigue’ as the ‘usual’ BAME candidates are reporting constantly being targeted by multiple charities for trustee roles

New analysis by Green Park reveals its clients in the charities sector are proactively seeking to close the diversity gap at the top of their organisations. Of the candidate placements made by Green Park onto the boards of charitable organisations from 2015 to 2017, 24% were from a BAME background. In addition, over a third (39%) of board placements made by the executive search firm into charities were women.

This represents considerable progress when benchmarked against current industrywide representation.  A study undertaken by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission found that just 8% of trustees on charities’ boards are from a BAME background while 33% are women.

Kai Adams, Partner, Charities and Social Enterprise practice at Green Park, explained the drivers behind this apparent momentum: “It is at board level where there should be insight and challenge, ownership and accountability. The more differentiated the trustee group, the more differentiated the questions asked and the solutions offered.

“Charities are undoubtedly more aware of the benefits that a more visibly and cognitively diverse board brings. In times of greater public scepticism, scrutiny and falling trust, the importance of being more accountable and representative is vitally important. The end goal needs to be a board which is complementary and effective, able to communicate better with the widest audience possible, take better decisions and deliver a greater impact.”

Despite the growing emphasis on diversity in the recruitment process, there are some pitfalls charities need to consider, adds Adams. One key danger is ‘recruitment fatigue,’ as many BAME candidates report being regularly contacted because of their diversity rather than their experience or ability. If these practices aren’t addressed, they will leave a lasting negative impact on the sector’s employer of choice status in attracting new diverse candidates and on the specific organisation’s employer brand.

Adams continues: “Boards and recruiters alike need to give clear reasons why someone’s skills are of interest and they need to close any gap between what they are saying and what they are doing, or it looks like lazy tokenism rather than authentic interest. In our experience there is a wealth of talent available, but good intentions are no longer enough. Charities are going to have to work harder if they want to continue to strengthen their boards for current and future challenges.”

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