Many trustees seen as out of touch with day-to-day charity life, survey finds

Online survey for the technology firm eShare finds that 48 per cent of charity staff believe board members could be more visible

Trustees: out of touch?
Trustees: out of touch?

Many charity staff think their board members are out of touch with day-to-day operations and could be more visible, according to a survey.

An online survey of 1,000 employees in nine sectors was conducted in February and March this year by TLF Research on behalf of the technology firm eShare. The sample included 129 charity staff, as well as employees in retail, financial services, utilities, travel and tourism, the public sector, healthcare, manufacturing and technology.

Forty-eight percent of charity respondents said their trustees were out of touch; 72 per cent said they could do more to be visible to staff; and 41 per cent claimed board decisions were not clearly communicated throughout the charity.

However, the study also revealed that charity boards have better representation of women and younger people than many company boards.
Seventy-six per cent of charity respondents said their board included at least one woman, compared with 63 per cent overall. Fifty-five per cent said there was nobody under the age of 40, compared with 63 per cent overall.

But there was less ethnic diversity on charity boards: 62 per cent of charity respondents said there was no ethnic diversity, compared with 55 per cent overall.

"Charities performed better than most sectors on board visibility, but one can’t underestimate the importance of a more visible board to good governance and building a strong culture," said Alister Esam, chief executive of eShare. "There is clearly much work to do for UK charities to improve visibility and transparency in decision-making, with a need to engage better with their employees and communicate their vision more effectively."

Fifty-five per cent of charity respondents said they felt employee representation in boardrooms would be a good thing.

Esam said: "The addition of an employee to the board would certainly add a different perspective and is, on the face of it, a positive move.

"However, it is actually fraught with issues, from the possibility of immediate disclosure of strategic plans to employees, to the selection process of the employee representative. There are more effective ways of improving senior-level diversity within the third sector."

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