Playing our part in creating stronger charities for a stronger society

March 30, 2017


This week saw the launch of the House of Lords report, Stronger charities for a stronger society, concluding with 100 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the charities sector. Many of the issues in the report are very familiar to those close to the sector, but what stood out for me in particular was the issue of diversity. If charities are to play their full role in creating a stronger society, they need to ensure that their boards are truly representative of the people and communities they seek to serve.

The report highlights how a lack of diversity among trustees limits the experience and knowledge of charity boards, holding back performance and development. This is an issue we’ve been tackling at PwC both from a corporate perspective and in terms of our support for charities. 

We recognise that diversity is essential for us to be sustainable as an organisation and to ensure that we are recruiting the best talent and skills from across society, regardless of race, gender or social background. Examples of how we’re doing this include shaping our recruitment practices, for example investing in the number of apprenticeships we recruit and dropping UCAS requirements.  We’re using our regional network to reach out to the geographical ‘cold spots’ identified by the Social Mobility Commission, as well as promoting social mobility through initiatives such as the Social Mobility Awards.  We’re starting to see the results, but recognise there is more to be done.

A specific recommendation the report made was that the Government should hold a consultation on introducing a statutory duty to allow employees of organisations over a certain size to take time off to perform trustee roles.  It is essential that charities have access to a diverse range of talent for their Boards and the skills and experience developed in business are often invaluable, as is the availability of younger people, often in full time employment. So while it may not be a statutory duty, at PwC we’re supporting our staff in their role as trustees as part of our contribution to building trust and solving society’s important problems, as well as developing the skills and experience of our people. This support is given through both time off to perform trustee roles and also through our PwC Charities Trustee Network.

A related point that the report highlights is around charities’ record in the use of digital platforms. In a digital era, it is essential that charities are confident in their use of digital technology to engage and communicate. Attracting chairs and trustees from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences can play a part in ensuring that the latest digital technology and approaches are at the heart of a charity’s operations.

It is clear that our society needs the charities sector to adapt and change to meet unprecedented demands.  The House of Lords report is a valuable contribution to this change, and we will see  other thoughts and recommendations, including those from New Philanthropy Capital, who are collaborating with PwC and others to prepare a forthcoming series of reports and essays under an overarching heading the State of the Sector.  I believe that 2017 will consolidate a lot of thinking that has taken place and – hopefully – see some emerging solutions to the challenges and opportunities the sector faces.

Ian Oakley-Smith | Director
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