Welcome Aboard

This is a selection of programmes, initiatives and organisations that are aimed at increasing the number of people from under-represented groups in leadership positions (trustees and directors) in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector – with a particular emphasis on people from black and minority ethnic communities.

These organisations can provide ideas and assistance for voluntary and other not-for-profit organisations that are looking to understand:

  • more about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
  • how to advance these topics within their organisations;
  • how they can work in partnership with others to make the sector as a whole fairer and more equitable.

For Funders:

  • Diversity Forum has developed a range of approaches with the aim of increasing diversity amongst social investors:  http://www.diversityforum.org.uk/
  • 2027 Talent Programme: 2027 is a paid training programme that prepares professionals from working class backgrounds for decision making roles in the grant-giving sector.  http://2027.org.uk/
  • DEI Collective: Fozia Irfan (trustee of the Association of Charitable Foundations and Chief Exec of Luton & Bedfordshire Community Foundation – @fozia_irfan) has just set up a new DEI Collective of 13 foundations which is aiming to be a test-bed over the next 3 years to develop effective approaches for trusts and foundations to develop effective DEI practice.   It will be starting its work in January 2020. https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/foundations-form-thirteen-strong-coalition-to-tackle-sectors-inclusion-issues.html
  • Association of Charitable Foundations – Stronger Foundations programme.   This programme has 6 strands – one of which is on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.  The DEI Working Group has just reported but ACF has yet to say how its work programme, including its professional development programme, will support trusts and foundations to implement the recently published DEI pillars: https://www.acf.org.uk/policy-practice/stronger-foundations/dei-working-group

Other voluntary sector initiatives which are aiming to increase diversity in the sector:

Outside the voluntary sector there are various development programmes for people from under-represented backgrounds to be “fast-tracked” into leadership positions.  Although not directly relevant to the voluntary sector, they are models of how our sector might develop such programmes – particularly focussed on supporting people in more “junior” roles to move into leadership:

  • NHS:



  • Civil Service:



  • Further Education:

Example of an approach with multiple strands:


  • Social Housing:

Olmec: “is a BME led Social Enterprise which champions race equality through economic and social justice. We support people into jobs, into social businesses and on to boards.”  http://www.olmec-ec.org.uk/

Black on Board programme (social housing sector):  http://www.olmec-ec.org.uk/black-on-board/

Some recruitment agencies and consultants which appear to be specialising in diversity in the not for profit sector:

  • Trustees Unlimited (a “social purpose business” joint venture between NCVO, Bates Wells solicitors and Russam recruitment consultants).  They have a “Step on Board” programme which aims to support people into Board roles (fees apply): https://trustees-unlimited.co.uk/
  • Getting on Board: They offer a range of services to not for profit organisations – including their “Step on Board” programme:  gettingonboard.org/
  • Reach Volunteering: has just started a new project to increase racial diversity on charity Boards:  https://reachvolunteering.org.uk/opp/increasing-racial-diversity-charity-boards-0
  • Radical Recruit a recruitment consultancy which sources talent and represents those who are underrepresented in the labour market; working exclusively with disadvantaged candidates from marginalised communities. www.radicalrecruit.co.uk/

Private sector recruitment consultancies with a particular interest or specialising in diversity:

Training and consultancy on DEI issues – to support organisations to get to a point where they would be ready to recruit (and do the work to retain) BME people on their boards:

There is also a range of not-for-profit organisations delivering leadership programmes for people from under-represented and marginalised groups and communities – which may offer models for developing a new stream of trustees for charities – eg:

It’s not enough to look at recruitment in isolation – as it risks creating “let’s write a toolkit to solve the problem” approaches – and toolkits are never enough.  We need to look at recruitment, advancement and retention as a whole, as well as at supply and demand issues, if we are going to make any significant difference to BME representation in the short to medium term.  I’ve written about the lack of progress on this over the last 20+ years:  https://newreciprocity.com/2019/03/13/inertia-a-timeline-updated/

As well as supply and demand issues, any initiatives aimed at increasing BME representation on boards needs also to look at how to change the culture, norms and expectations of our sector.  For example, using all means to encourage and showcase good practice:

I’ve written a little about this broader approach here:  https://newreciprocity.com/2019/07/18/make-way-and-shift-the-power/#more-542

Suggestions for organisations, initiatives and resources to be added to this list are very welcome.

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