Does your Board of Trustees and leadership team reflect the community you serve? 

Image Credit: 
Christina Morillo
20 October, 2021

Diversity has been a hot topic for several years with organisations stating they intend to become more representative and inclusive, but progress hasn't always matched the rhetoric. There is much to be gained from a diverse board with a wide range of lived experience as well as a range of expertise, but it takes commitment and perhaps difficult conversations to make it happen. 

Reach Volunteering's research into trustee recruitment, featured in the publication Civil Society, found that in 2017, 92% of trustees were white, two thirds were male, and the average age was between 55 – 64. There has been some positive rebalancing since then. For example, the gender balance for appointments almost achieved parity in 2020. 

However, Reach Volunteering’s report highlights that a disparity in appointment success rates still exists. For example:   

  • Younger people (under 35 years old) are less likely to be appointed. The 55 - 64 age group are 80% more likely to be appointed than the 18 - 34 age group. 
  • Candidates' chances of being appointed are, in part, determined by their ethnicity. White applicants are almost twice as likely to be appointed as Black and Asian applicants. 
  • There is a big difference in experience between different ethnicities. For example, people who identify as Black Caribbean are, on average, the second most likely group to be appointed, and people who identify as Asian Chinese are much more likely to be appointed than Asian Pakistani. 


How can VCSE organisations in Bristol implement an open recruitment policy? 

A starting point for developing a recruitment process that attracts people with a wide range of experience and characteristics, is to undertake a trustee skills audit. You can then identify the skills that are most needed and look at the demographic profile of exiting board members to consider how you wish to increase diversity around ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, neurodiversity and so on. 

Open ‘welcome’ events can often provide opportunities to really engage people with the work an organisation undertakes and having team members, service users and existing board members on hand to answer questions will give potential trustees a real insight into your aims, objectives and your ethos. Lived experience can also be communicated more effectively in person.  

Time and effort invested in creating an informative recruitment pack that uses Plain English and fewer exclusive acronyms also improves chances of appealing to a wider range of people.  Short interviews where applicants can attend at times that suit them, will also be beneficial in attracting a more diverse demographic – people with caring responsibilities, for example. 

Open recruitment also means advertising through a wide range of channels rather than existing trustees reaching out to neighbours, friends or colleagues, which has been a traditional recruitment method for many charities. Having identified through a board audit specific gaps in lived experience or skills, which communications channels would be most appropriate to reach people to fill them – a neighbourhood newsletter, a peer network, a support agency for a particular subsector?  

Make a start on your open recruitment today by posting your trustee vacancies on our website and reach our diverse audience for free. We help over 2,000 VCSE organisations fill skills gaps every year.