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Charities still lead the way in gender diversity

But female leadership of top charity boards declines

New research from Grant Thornton UK LLP into Charity Governance has revealed that only 14 of the top 100 charities have a female chair, down from 22 in 2014. Though charities still  lead the way in number of female chairs in comparison to the FTSE 350 (where only 3.6% of chairs are women) the gap is tightening between commercial and charity board diversity. Grant Thornton's report highlights the need for clear, detailed gender diversity policies in the charity sector.                                                                                                                

'Navigating a changing world' is Grant Thornton’s third annual review of governance in the charitable sector, covering the disclosures made in the trustees’ reports of the top 100 charities in England, Wales and Scotland.

Carol Rudge, Partner and Head of Not for Profit at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

"Gender diversity on boards continues to be a high profile issue across all sectors. However, while important, gender diversity is just one element of a much wider, general debate about diversity. Most charities (58) disclose the existence of a diversity policy within their annual report. However, the disclosures are of varying quality and only 19 charities include a good or detailed diversity policy.

"So why diversity? Organisations with diverse boards do perform better. Diversity also plays a part in creating, or restoring, public confidence. To be effective, a board requires a variety of skills and experience. We believe that the annual report offers an important medium by which to demonstrate to stakeholders that a charity’s trustees have an appropriate mix of experience and skills."

More detailed disclosure of values would benefit  charity annual reports

64 of the top 100 charities set out their values within their annual report.  In a small number of annual reports (19) the information is long enough to take up “a paragraph or more”. Clear disclosure of values allows trustees to reflect on the relevance of their values and ensure that charities are accountable to their core principles.

Chief executives engage on Twitter

An increasing number of charity chief executives are using Twitter, with 37 having profiles on the platform.  This compares with 29 last year.  Overall the report shows that interest has risen on social media use for charities, which averaged approximately 94,000 followers on Twitter during the assessed period, up from around 78,000 last year.

The future of best practice governance

Commenting on the future of best practice governance in the charity sector Carol Rudge said:

"Very similar guidance for governance is currently used by all types of charities, from complex multinationals to local groups.  Given the size and complexity of the largest charities, we believe that it may now be time to develop a bespoke code of corporate governance for them. This would also enable the setting of a ‘gold standard’ for reporting by large charities, helping to ensure transparency with stakeholders and the wider public."

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