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Exploring the future role of charity Chairs

Important research on the role of the future charity Chair and why its critical to the future of charities is underway. Read on to find out more and about how you can get involved.


Some of us will remember 2012 fondly when the UK hosted the Olympic games and celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee. The country seemingly came together and there was a palpable sense of unity.

Following that, 2013 was somewhat of a mixed bag to say the least. Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela passed away. Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as US president, and David Cameron announced that the Conservative manifesto for 2015 would include an in-out referendum on EU membership.

With all of that in the rear view, who would have guessed what the world would look like in 2023?

The pace of change over the past 10 years has been unrelenting and some of these changes have permanently changed the way we live and work.

We have become accustomed to living in a state of ‘permacrisis’ moving from one seismic shift to the next. A lot can happen fast in a relatively short timeframe, let alone a decade.

It is crucial that the charity sector continues to thrive despite facing a future of change and uncertainty. But how do we attempt to navigate this future and understand what this means for the skills and attributes required, such that leadership will be fit for purpose?

There is no easy solution, but a significant part of the answer starts at the top with the Board of Trustees. We must future-proof our approach to leadership and governance to remain strong and resilient and at Crow UK, we believe the role of Chair is an essential component in leading our charities in a new and different future.

Our new research project explores this issue, by delving into the role of the future charity Chair and what will be required in 2033 and beyond.


Looking to the future

To better understand the challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead, we held a workshop with Good Innovation looking at the key elements that are likely to disrupt our world and impact current models of operation.

Our steering committee, sponsors and partners were delighted to be joined by representatives from a range of charities to share valuable insights and experience. Discussions included the potential disruption of artificial intelligence (AI), climate change, never-ending funding challenges and opportunities, stakeholder expectations and changes in regulation.

We all know how vast and varied the sector is, and the discussions reflected that. Although there were similar threads fed back from the breakout groups, each brought a unique set of insights to the wider discussion.

We discussed the different experiences according to the size of the organisation, in terms of staff numbers and how roles are distributed.

The increasing importance of ‘doing good’ outside the sector was also part of the debate, with more corporate entities seemingly entering the space once uniquely occupied by charities.

The role of the charity Chair

All of this ultimately leads back to the important question at the root of this research: how does the role of the charity Chair need to evolve to be fit for 2033 and beyond?

There is no one answer and clearly one size will not be fit for all, but here are some takeaways from the workshop that will help frame the next phase in our research.

The discussion about structure was illuminating with more talk of movements, networks, collaboration, and generative leadership.

It prompted the idea that this might in turn impact the role of the Chair, both in terms of length of service, and the Chair’s availability to lead on issues across various movements rather than from a fixed position.

It also highlighted the importance of sustainability and succession, with the focus on impact and the difference made by the organisation.

We explored the idea of leadership moving from a hierarchical structure to a group of leaders working together. There was discussion about the need for stronger emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and commitment to ongoing personal development.

We also touched on the ability to show vulnerability, build trust and get the very best from the Board and wider team. Not surprisingly, the need for greater diversity was highlighted, together with the expectation that this is only likely to increase in the future.

When we spoke of diversity, it was noted that we must ensure this includes less obvious, as well as visible, differences.

Regardless of their size, mission or location, all charities exist to make the world better for the people and communities they serve. Our people are central to all that we do and achieve, and the discussions around the traits required from the Chair spoke to this.

As one participant said: "The role of Chair needs to evolve to ensure that the governance is fit for difficult decision making in addition to leading during good times. The Chair’s role is for the good times and the challenging. One can’t just step away when times get tough."

As we move into the next phase of our research project, which will include individual interviews and roundtables, we will dig deeper into these initial findings and reflections. Watch this space!


If you are interested in finding out more and getting involved, please email with the subject title ‘The Future Charity Chair’.



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