Magic Wand Not Required

To increase diversity in the governance and management of trusts and foundations there are many actions that we as individuals, organisations and networks can take.  Some of them require significant investment of time and/or money – but most of them just require the will of individuals to invest their own time – and share or give up some of their own power – to make a change.

1.  Examine Yourself:

A good place to start is to think about what you really believe and understand about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – how it is advanced and held back and what it means for other people.  This includes issues such as:

a)  Other voices and experiences:

b)  Unconscious Bias:

c)  Power and Privilege:

d)  Understanding how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion relates to the governance, operations, investment and grantmaking of trusts and foundations – not just who they employ:

2.  Changing the Culture:

To really make a change in this area – after years of little progress which is documented here:  more radical solutions are needed.  For example:

Chief Exec 1% Challenge:  all current Chief Execs and senior managers earning £50k or more should personally donate £500 to a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program (which should be coordinated by the Association of Charitable Foundations and be overseen by a diverse steering group) with individual foundations topping up as necessary.  Ideally, this would arise from and be linked to ACF’s Stronger Foundations programme which includes a DEI strand.

The first thing it should do is to commission 3 law firms (charity and employment specialists) to give a pro bono consensus opinion on exactly how widely and radically we can use positive action.

It should then see what it can learn from others who have already taken a lead in this area – including:

Understanding and Using All Motivators:  As well as the values-based and practical reasons for increasing Diversity and improving Inclusion to increase Equity, and the legal and regulatory reasons (some of which are detailed here: – change can also be brought about by other means – including incentives.  For example, role modelling (by leaders and organisations), demonstrating increased competitive advantage and celebrating progress and achievements – eg:

3.  Increasing Supply:

People Pipeline Programmes:  Funders should invest in programs which provide targeted, free or subsidised opportunities for people from under-represented communities to develop skills and experience relevant to roles in the trust and foundation sector.  For example:

This investment should be both by supporting the development of such initiatives (eg through core funding) and by paying for their own staff to participate in such initiatives.

Own Time Mentoring:  Those currently in senior positions may not be able to afford to “make way” for people from under-represented groups.  But they can do more to create other opportunities – eg mentoring (in their own time) the next generation of diverse leaders.  If every one of us “majority community” leaders of trusts and foundations mentored someone from a “minority community” – imagine how much they’d learn.  The ‘majority community’ leaders I mean.

There are already many mentoring schemes in the public and commercial sectors to learn from – and also some examples of voluntary sector organisations investing in developing their staff through such schemes:

Waiting for the trust and foundation sector to develop its own mentoring scheme is not sufficient.  Individual foundation leaders should identify people to mentor – either from within their own organisations or from outside.  If they don’t already have links or networks which will help them identify such people – then they should start using Twitter and other social media to find potential candidates – actively seeking out and following people with backgrounds and experiences different from their own:

4.  Increasing Demand:

Dead Men’s Shoes:  Senior appointments in Trusts and Foundations are currently secure “dead men’s shoes” roles.  In future, senior appointments (Director/CEO, etc) should be on a fixed term basis (eg 5 years) to ensure there is sufficient churn to enable people who aren’t older white men to get the opportunity to move into senior roles.  Fixed term contracts are common in other sectors (eg the police, NHS and academia) and are also used by some foundations in the US.

Make Way:  But that’s not enough.  To prevent a merry-go-round of the same men moving from role to role, the supply of people from other backgrounds and attributes needs to be significantly improved (see Increasing Supply above).

Don’t take a trustee role if you’re male, middle aged and white – and you look like most of the board you’d be joining. Find a different way to volunteer or contribute – just not in a leadership/governance role.  Unpaid advisory roles, frontline volunteering work, etc – there are lots of ways of “giving back”.

Not the Usual Suspects:  And your own organisation should also be moving beyond the “golf club network” method of recruiting trustees.  There is already a huge amount of guidance on how to recruit paid and volunteer staff – including trustees.  For example:

But there remains a “supply-side” problem which needs to be addressed by initiatives that support the development of people from “non-traditional” backgrounds and communities into governance roles – for example:

If you’re a male leader of a trust or foundation you should refuse to sit on any men only panels.  If you’re a white leader of a trust or foundation you should refuse to sit on any white people only panels.

If you’re offered the excuse “there’s no one qualified” you should challenge it and find someone who is qualified to take your place.  Mandy Johnson’s list of female speakers is a good place to start.

More ideas will be added to this list over time.  Suggestions welcomed.

Based on the original post:

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