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How to increase diversity among trustees

Achieving diversity is a perpetual challenge for charities - how can organisations attract members of the public not traditionally represented on charity boards to become Trustees?

Things you'll need

  • Knowledge of the Equality Act 2010


Achieving diversity is a perpetual challenge for charities, and in theory every organisation needs to seek to increase or at least maintain the diversity of its board when recruiting Trustees.  Parts of the population not traditionally represented on charity boards include young people, people with disabilities and members of minority or ethnic communities.

According to ACEVO, 97% of Trustee Chairs are white and seven out of ten are men (ref1).  The Charity Commission estimates that only 0.5% of the trustee population is made up of 18-24 year olds (ref2).  Over a quarter of charities feel that their leadership team lacks sufficient diversity (ref3).

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that 81% of charities practise recruiting of trustees by word of mouth or personal recommendation, according to The Charity Commission (ref4).


Why increase diversity?

  • Many charities risk a disconnect between board members and beneficiaries of their services.  A more diverse range of trustees helps to ensure a charity is fair and open in all its dealings, for example in giving grants or delivering services.
  • A diverse board can increase public confidence and accountability.
  • Different types of trustees and a healthy changeover help to keep the board fresh and new ideas coming in, and prevent leadership becoming stale
  • A diverse board contains a broader mix of skills, knowledge and experience which should give it greater flexibility to overcome challenges
  • Many charities have a public duty to promote equality, as per the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.

How can you increase diversity?

Set limits for Trustee terms. This is essential to ensure length of service is straightforward and that trustees don’t become entrenched or burnt out.  In addition, setting in place standard procedures for Trustee recruitment and induction can ensure that your organisation is consistently striving to increase diversity.

Here are some practical ideas to help get a more diverse mix of Trustees:

  1. Use alternative methods of recruitment to word of mouth wherever possible, to try and reach into communities not currently represented on the board.  Investigate using Trustee brokerage services or specialist recruitment consultancies such as TPP Not for Profit.
  2. When advertising Trustee vacancies, you can make use of specialist job boards targeted at local communities or minority populations.  Explore advertising on LinkedIn groups focussed on the type of person you’d like to attract.
  3. Organise board meetings at times that are convenient to all, such as evenings, or hold them at different times so that Trustees who cannot attend one particular meeting are not excluded.
  4. You should have a set policy in place for expenses such as travel and childcare.  It may even be possible to provide childcare services for Trustees.
  5. Make sure the venue in which you hold your board meetings is in a location which can be easily reached by all and is accessible for people with disabilities.  TPP’s boardroom is available free of charge to charities for meetings.
  6. It is a good idea to have arrangements in place, should you need to provide translators or sign language interpreters, or provide audio, Braille or large print versions of documents.
  7. Many potential Trustees, particularly those in younger age groups, feel they are excluded from joining a board as they would be missing out on paid employment.  Choosing to pay these Trustees could help overcome this, and 18% of charities feel that paying Trustees would help them (ref3).  7% of Trustees and Chairs are paid (ref5).


But remember, first and foremost a Trustee must have the skills, knowledge and experience required to fulfil their role. 

Trustees are there to provide governance and guidance to a charity on the behalf of its beneficiaries.  They need to be motivated by the charity’s ultimate aims and it is of no benefit to either party to appoint someone purely to make up a diversity ‘quota’.

Further information


1) Chief Executives on Governance (PDF) - ACEVO document

2) A breath of fresh air: young people as charity trustees (Charity Commission)

3) Baker Tilly Leadership Survey 2011 (PDF)

4) Trustee Recruitment (Charity Commission)

5) Trustee diversity rates are shocking (Civil Society)

About us

For more information on how TPP can help you recruit a diverse board of Trustees, please visit the TPP website or contact us at or on 020 7198 6060.




Page last edited Nov 11, 2016 History

Comments (2)

to post a comment
Claire Haslam
Claire Haslam on Sep 11, 2012 02:49 PM

This all sounds very sensible, but it doesn't acknowledge the problems that many organisations have with recruiting trustees. If we were to start setting term limits on our trustees we simply wouldn't have any. And some of your suggestions, such as offering childcare for trustees, would simply be impossible for us to afford. Some practical suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles would be useful as well as the overview of the ideal situation.

Ade Fashade
Ade Fashade on Sep 12, 2012 02:55 PM

Like the comment above, most people will agree with what has been outlined here in terms of general best practice. What we really need, though, is practical ways in which we can attract applications from a diverse range of groups. We are simply not getting enough applications from groups such as BME, disabled, young people, even after trying a number of specialist targeted networks representing these communities. The demands of being a trustee in our organisation is quite significant, and as such, it attracts to fairly high-profile, hilght positioned and highly educated, with an interest in doing something for the greater good, I suppose. It may be that we need help on the way we advertise, the language we use, etc?

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