Governance, Management & leadership

More than just a checkbox: Why trustees of colour are essential

DSC's Trustee, Michaela Clark, discusses the importance of Board diversity.

As a trustee at the Directory of Social Change (DSC), an organisation dedicated to supporting charities in their work, I find myself grappling with a troubling reality in British philanthropy: a disconnect between the communities served and the boards making decisions. This lack of diversity, particularly the low number of trustees of colour, is deeply concerning. 

DSC’s mission resonated with my desire to see a more equitable charity landscape. The organisation empowers charities by providing resources, training, and advocating for policies that promote inclusivity. Joining DSC as a trustee felt like a natural extension of my own values – a chance to be part of the solution from within. 

Being a person of colour, I also saw an opportunity to bridge a gap. Reports by ATRD and Trustees Unlimited reveal a stark truth: only 8% of trustees on large charity boards in the UK come from Black and Asian backgrounds. This doesn’t reflect the communities these charities aim to serve. It became clear to me that DSC, and the sector as a whole, needed a more diverse range of voices at the table. 

Diversity isn’t just a buzzword. When trustees come from different backgrounds, it enriches the way we approach challenges. Here’s why: 

Seeing the needs through a new lens 

My faith and cultural background shape how I approach my role. I may identify issues or opportunities that others miss. Perhaps it’s a lack of representation within a programme aimed at youth development, or a specific need within a Caribbean community. My background allows me to champion these causes and ensure the organisation’s resources are reaching the most underserved population. 

Fostering inclusivity from within 

Diversity isn’t just about having a seat at the table; it’s about fostering an inclusive environment. I advocate for open conversations about race, equity, and inclusion, this can lead to more informed decision-making that truly reflects the needs of a diverse community. 

Challenges and overcoming them 

Being a trustee of colour isn’t always easy. There may be moments where you feel like an outsider, or your voice isn’t fully heard. These challenges are real, but they can also be opportunities for growth. By building relationships with fellow trustees and sharing your experiences, you can help break down barriers and create a more welcoming space for future generations of diverse leaders. 

A call for more diverse leadership 

The philanthropic sector has a responsibility to reflect the communities it serves. I encourage organisations to actively seek out trustees of colour. Our voices are valuable, and our perspectives are essential for creating a more equitable and impactful future. 

This is just the beginning of my journey. As a trustee, I am committed to using my voice and experiences to make a positive difference. If you’re a person of colour considering a role in philanthropy, I urge you to take the leap! We need your unique perspective to build a better tomorrow.