On 4th July this year, Money4YOU’s #OperationTransparency sent an open letter to the Charity Commission for England & Wales. We urged the Commission to monitor the diversity of charity trustees and senior executives across a range of protected characteristics. Public access to this data would enable better interventions to improve diversity and build trust and accountability in the sector.
Money4YOU received a formal response from the Commission, dated 8th August, acknowledging the severity of the issue and committing our proposal to consideration. The Commission has made no policy commitments, but we hope its openness to addressing the issue will encourage others affected and interested to continue adding their own views.
Dear Ms Akiwumi,
Thank you for your letter of 4th July, on behalf of the signatories, regarding the availability of data about trustee diversity. I am replying to you on behalf of our Chief Executive, Helen Stephenson.
We originally commissioned ‘Taken on Trust’ to understand more about trustees across England and Wales. As your letter highlights, and as that data showed, taken as a whole trustees do not reflect the make-up of the communities that they serve.
We also 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. Diverse boards are better able to anticipate and manage risks, seize new opportunities, future proof their organisations and tackle difficult but necessary decisions. Conversely, 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.
Recognising the ongoing need to encourage different perspectives on charity boards, 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. Working with partners in the sector, we 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.
Since then we have been engaging with stakeholders in the charity sector to further understand the opportunities to increase the diversity of trustees as well as the barriers that may exist. More widely we have 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.
We will consider your challenge to us on trustee diversity data as part of this work.
You may also be aware that we have a consultation open on a new approach to the Annual Return. We will 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. Submissions to that consultation close on 1st September 2022. We will consider the specific proposals that you have raised as part of this process.
I am also aware that you are planning to meet with my team in the near future. We look forward to engaging with you further on this important issue.
Director of Communications & Policy
Our proposal will be considered as part of the ongoing consultation on changes to the Annual Return, a consultation which does not explicitly mention diversity. This is a significant step forward and we encouraged other organisations to contact the Commission before the 1st September deadline to add their own perspectives on the future of the Annual Return.
“This is a promising first step, and I’m delighted that the Commission acknowledges that trustees on the whole do not reflect the communities they serve,” said AmickyCarol Akiwumi MBE, founder and CEO of Money4YOU. “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 Commission has not acted on a proposal to collect and publish information on trustee diversity that was included in an official report in 2017.
“The Charity Commission needs to explain why they believe diversity data isn’t necessary,” added Carol. “The burden of proof should lie with those defending the status quo.”
Over the next six months, Money4YOU is committed to bringing this conversation into the public domain as much as possible. Our programme of events, research, and campaigning toolkits 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,” said Carol. “This is not a difficult step for us to take if we take it together.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Jay Richardson - or 08443510072
Money4YOU is a Black, Asian, Multi-Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER)-led UK charity, founded in 2014 by Carol Akiwumi MBE. We run the AVOCADO+ programme, the UK’s only dedicated accelerator programme for BAMER-led charities and social enterprises, in addition to our youth financial education work and our overseas programme of social entrepreneurship support.