A charity trustee does not need a professional qualification. What is important is a commitment to the role, an understanding of the role and responsibilities, and the skills to understand, scrutinise and constructively challenge the information they are being presented with.
Boards should do more to encourage diversity. In this context, diversity is more than a focus on issues such as ethnicity and gender but also covers diversity of thought, age, experience and backgrounds.
Trustees need to consider how they bring different perspectives to their work. Boards run the risk of creating a culture of 'group think', where decision-making can go unchallenged if there is a lack of diversity of thought.
The December 2020 update to the Charity Governance Code expanded its principle on diversity to also include equality and inclusion. It explains why equality, diversity and inclusion are important and provides helpful recommended practice for larger and smaller charities. An inclusive culture is one in which everyone feels their contribution matters, and so may be more likely to challenge decision-making and participate in board discussions.
Charities must have strong procedures to recruit, induct and train trustees. The Charity Governance Code recommends that boards start by assessing their understanding of the charity’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). This includes identifying imbalances or gaps in trustees’ backgrounds and perspectives, and bias in trustee recruitment and selection. Charities can then set realistic plans and targets and monitor progress. This will allow them to communicate their EDI strategy and achievements to key stakeholders and attract a wider pool of volunteers and supporters.
While professional skills remain important to boards, many charities have started to commit more time and effort into diversifying their boards in other ways, for example by inviting service users and people with relevant lived experience to become trustees.
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