Our informal soundings from the sector confirm the need for more diversity and inclusion at all levels of charities to promote more perspectives and better decision-making.
On 7 October, we hosted a charity webinar looking at the governance issues we see commonly arising, and suggesting some simple strategies for charities to run as effectively as possible in these times of continuing uncertainty.
We see at least two good reasons for charities to practice good governance.
First, because unless your organisation is well run it is unlikely to continue to receive support and funding. In his recent report “Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant”, Danny Kruger MP said that the responsibility of charities was “to deliver high standards of professionalism, accountability, collaboration and transparency” and at the first ever online annual public meeting of the Charity Commission on 1 October its chair Baroness Stowell made the same point.
Second, we each need a clear vision to navigate these uncharted waters (even if we are not all in the same boat). Back in August the Institute for Voluntary Action Research sought to identify key issues for charities at that time. As well as concern for the welfare of staff and volunteers supporting those in need, the IVAR survey highlighted the difficulties of navigating the easing of the national lockdown and of formulating a long-term strategy in times of such uncertainty.
Ultimately, it’s a question of leadership – ensuring that a charity assembles the most appropriate team of individuals to come up with the best decisions to advance its purpose.
And increasingly there’s appreciation - in the commercial world as well as in the voluntary sector -that diversity and inclusion isn’t just a moral obligation but a business necessity: a wider range of perspectives leads ultimately to more informed and better decisions.
In this context, it was interesting to see the result of two completely unscientific (and anonymous) online straw polls we ran during our webinar.
First, we gave participants four options of governance failures we commonly see in practice and the most prominent was that of the charity board not leading on strategy/oversight of its executive.
Then we asked which of five positive changes would make the most difference and the highest vote was for improving diversity – at board and all levels.
So, the tone at the top and creating a truly inclusive culture within a charitable organisation have never been more important.
We look to continue to explore these issues in a real setting in our next charity webinar on 3 November, when we will have the opportunity to interview Paul Bott, Chief Executive of St John of God Hospitaller Services to learn how that charity has recently undergone profound systemic and cultural change, achieving a 20% growth in both reach and income over the last year.
To register for this webinar please click here.
And if you would like to view the recording of our (one hour) webinar on charity governance and our takeaway document outlining common problems and possible solutions then please click here.