Charity leaders need to acknowledge the sector’s lack of racial diversity and commit to minimum diversity targets to resolve the issue, the charity leaders body Acevo and the Institute of Fundraising have said.
In a report published today, the two bodies called on civil society leaders to sign up to a series of commitments aimed at improving the racial diversity in their organisations.
The report, Racial Diversity in the Charity Sector: Principles and Recruitment Practice, sets out why diversity should be a priority for the sector and offers practical advice on how diversity can be improved.
"The charity sector as a whole is failing to reflect the racial diversity of the individuals, communities and geographic it serves," the report says.
It cites the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ UK Civil Society Almanac, which said that 9 per cent of voluntary sector employees were from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, despite making up 14 per cent of the UK population, and a study by Inclusive Boards that found only 5.3 per cent of people in senior leadership teams in the top 500 charities were from ethnic minority backgrounds.
"Despite repeated attention being drawn to the issue, figures on racial diversity in the charity sector have remained relatively static for a number of years," today’s report says.
"Charity leaders must recognise that racial inequality will not improve by simply talking about it, especially if that discussion doesn’t involve white charity leaders thinking about their own bias and the structural inequalities in the sector."
Instead, the report says, sector leaders should sign up to eight principles, which include committing to setting permanent and minimum targets for diversity that reflect the participants, donors, beneficiaries and the population of the area the charity operates in.
They must also acknowledge that the problem exists and commit to changing it, recognise the role leaders have to play in modelling positive behaviour and learn about the impact of racial bias on decision-making, the report says.
The principles include committing to action and investing resources to improve a charity’s diversity, viewing staff as the sum of many parts rather than a single entity, valuing individuals’ lived experience and recruiting for potential, not perfection.
Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: "There has been a lot of talk about improving racial diversity in civil society, but unfortunately little has changed. Improving diversity and inclusion will not just happen; it requires a conscious, targeted investment of time and resource. No one is getting it all right: we all have to be better."
But if leaders were to get it right, she said, they would create stronger, more resilient and creative charities.
As well as signing up to the eight principles in the report, Browning said she had also committed to providing all Acevo staff and trustees with unconscious bias training, reviewing recruitment procedures to ensure they are inclusive, giving all staff access to mentoring, setting annual diversity targets and publishing a breakdown of the diversity of board staff and membership, starting in March next year.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said: "Now is the time for charity leaders to make diversity a priority for their organisations.
"The principles we launched today will act as a guide for sector leaders and will contribute towards a much larger change in the sector."
Sufina Ahmad, chair of the IoF’s expert board on diversity and inclusion, encouraged leaders to sign up to the principles.
"It’s important for charities to prioritise diversity from within their organisations in order to better support their beneficiaries and their workforces," she said.