Headlines: October 8th, 2007

Research to be published today will show that that there is a glass ceiling in voluntary sector governance and that women and people of ethnic minority backgrounds find it hard to become trustees of larger charities and voluntary organisations. The Boards Count benchmarking survey will be launched at the NCVO On Board governance conference today.

It will reveal that in smaller organisations women account for 45 per cent of places on boards but in larger bodies that figure falls to 29 per cent. It also shows that within smaller charities and voluntary groups, 12 per cent of trustees are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds compared with only 7 per cent in larger organisations.

The study, part-funded by the Governance Hub, has also found that 60 per cent of respondents felt their boards did not do enough to meet the diverse needs of their existing board members. Almost half believed there was a gap in the representation of disabled people on boards of trustees and a third thought there should be a better gender balance.

Now the Governance Hub is calling for voluntary and community organisation boards to review their performance and then to agree development plans and adopt Key Performance Indicators to address governance issues. It believes the indicators will ensure organisations have a balanced board.

Anne Moynihan, Head of the Governance Hub, said the benchmarking survey showed that putting time into getting governance right did pay off and most organisations do show signs of good governance but she added, “We need to encourage more diversity on boards, to ensure that they are representative of the people and communities they serve. Boards Count will enable all voluntary and community organisations to compare their governance with others of the same size and sub-sectors, set targets for improvements to their own governance practices if necessary and track their progress using a number of performance indicators.”

The survey is the first of its kind and benchmarks more than 70 organisations and around 450 board members and senior staff to compare governance practice and to help improve performance.