Knowledge Hub

People and culture

Recruiting trustees from Black and Asian network organisations - it really isn’t rocket science!

Malcolm John the founder of Action for Trustee Racial Diversity shares insights gained from his quest to improve racial diversity at board level.

In my continuing quest for tools and resources to support my growing campaign - Action for Trustee Racial Diversity (ATRD) - I came across a reference to a 42-page booklet, snappily titled Recruiting and Supporting Black and Minority Ethnic Trustees published in 2001 by NCVO. I haven’t yet been able to find an extant copy to try and extract any pearls of wisdom from those times. However, I am interested to see whether its approach differed to that which my campaign is now taking and to reflect on why we’re still where we are today, 20 years later!

The diligent efforts of my volunteer team have now brought about a remarkable database of currently some 200 Black and Asian network organisations, from which charities might recruit trustees. At this stage, we’re still fine-tuning it to make it more user friendly for wider use. However, my earlier blogs (generously supported by key partners, including Association of Chairs, ACEVO, NCVO, nfpSynergy, Green Park Executive Search and Diversity Consultancy, and Equality Trust) have led to a number of Chairs and CEOs contacting me to seek my support for their commitment to improve racial diversity at board and staff level. I’ve had no hesitations in sharing the database to let them sift through and approach any organisations they think could provide potential trustees. All I’ve asked is that they sign up publicly in support of the campaign on our website, and promote and raise awareness of the campaign within their own networks and social media channels. I know from feedback that this has been greatly appreciated.

In compiling this unique database, I’m ceaselessly struck by the extraordinary diversity and creativity of these networks - many of which operate through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To give just a flavour of the range, they include: The Association for BAME Engineers, 100 Black Men of London, Black British in STEM, Black South West Network, Black Fundraisers UK, Black Women in Finance, Black Young Professional Network, BAME network for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (aptly abbreviated CLIP), British Sikh Nurses, Creative Diversity Network, East Asian Lawyers, Institute of Cancer Research BAME Network, Melanin Medics, People of Color in Tech, Race on the Agenda and Women in the City Afro-Caribbean Network as well as several university BAME networks.

More recently, we’ve been researching local Black and Asian organisations in the major cities of England and Wales, recognising that most small charities largely recruit locally. We’re also sourcing corporate BAME networks, where a considerable range of skills undoubtedly lies. Of course, we don’t yet know how many would want to engage actively in the trustee recruitment process. I imagine that many might well be asking “what is a charity?” let alone “what is a trustee?”

This presents the challenge to charities of how to build meaningful and sustained relationships with the myriad of Black and Asian organisations out there - very many on social media. Charities must do more to raise awareness of their role in civil society and the key position of trustees in leading them. Charities also need collectively to play a more prominent role in highlighting the well-evidenced personal and professional benefit of trusteeships to individuals.

Finally, and most significantly, a crucial element in achieving increased trustee racial diversity is for Chairs and CEOs of all charities, no matter how small, to commit to open advertising of all trustee vacancies. Getting on Board’s excellent practical guide - How to recruit trustees for your charity - removes any excuse for charities to say that it's too difficult, or they lack the resources to advertise openly, given the range of no or low cost options available. All board trustees - not just Chairs - must also step up and insist that open recruitment is the norm, not the exception. Who’d like to take up that campaign challenge?


Contact: Malcolm John,; website; twitter: @atrd_uk

« Back to the Knowledge Hub