Inclusive Board Recruitment for Social Enterprises, Charities, and Community Organisations

Posted in: Blog, News.

Diverse group of business women smiling at the camera

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s crucial for social enterprises, charities, community enterprises, and development trusts to reflect on this year’s theme of “inclusion” and how it applies to their organisations, particularly in board recruitment. Our vision at CEIS is to make Scotland a better place to live and work with a more inclusive economy, which means we believe that creating a diverse and inclusive board is essential for building a strong, successful organisation that represents the communities we serve.

To that end, we had a brief chat with Nina Graham, a Business Adviser in our Enterprise and Communities team whose specialism is working with the boards of third sector organisations. We wanted to hear her thoughts on how organisations can make their boards more inclusive.

Barriers to Inclusive Board Recruitment

Joining the board of a third sector organisation is a great opportunity to learn more skills, add to your CV, develop in your career, contribute to a cause you feel passionate about or become part of a community. Contrary to popular belief, many boards actively look for people who have little experience working on boards, because diversity of skills and lived experience is an important feature of all innovative and forward-thinking organisations.

Whilst there have been great strides made in board recruitment over the years, women still face barriers when it comes to joining boards. Common challenges include:

  • Time commitment, especially when balancing work and caring responsibilities
  • Lack of confidence and feeling that others are more skilled and experienced
  • Accessibility issues, including travel, timings, meeting format, and the use of jargon or acronyms
  • Uncertainty about what they can offer and the value they can bring to the board

To create a more inclusive board, organisations should examine their current marketing efforts and communications to ensure they reflect the diversity of their community. This includes reviewing website accessibility, social media presence, and partnerships with organisations representing underrepresented groups.

Steps to Inclusive Board Recruitment for Social Enterprises and Charities

When it comes to the recruitment process itself, social enterprises and charities can take the following steps to promote inclusivity:

  1. Provide clear information about the role, including the time commitment and board meeting calendar over the year, development support available, and the organisation’s aims and values.
  2. Offer a comprehensive induction pack, mentoring opportunities, and a welcoming social atmosphere.
  3. Be aware of unconscious bias and take steps to mitigate it in the decision-making process, such as using scoring systems and seeking input from diverse panel members.
  4. Consider alternative interview formats and provide reasonable adjustments to ensure accessibility for all candidates.
  5. Communicate the term of the appointment and the importance of succession planning to support long-term diversity and inclusion.

Many third-sector organisations serving disadvantaged and vulnerable groups strive for board representation that reflects their communities. To achieve this inclusivity, understanding and reaching their target audience is crucial.

CEIS’s Commitment to Inclusive Board Recruitment

We’re committed to creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy outlines our dedication to promoting diversity at all levels of the organisation, including the board. We’re working to make our recruitment process more accessible by providing materials in various formats, using diverse imagery, and engaging with organisations that represent underrepresented groups.

It is important that organisations value the potential commitment of every person who comes forward to join a board, especially as many organisations struggle with recruitment and retention. By taking the time to understand everyone’s needs and offering support accordingly, social enterprises and charities can foster a more inclusive environment.

In late 2022 we took these ideas and ran with them, recruiting a number of new board members with a variety of backgrounds. You can learn more about our own board recruitment process and what we learned here.

Learn More About Inclusive Board Recruitment

If you’re interested in learning more about board recruitment for your social enterprise, charity, community enterprise, or development trust, we invite you to attend our upcoming masterclass on March 14th in Glasgow. For those outside of Glasgow, we also offer free support to third sector organisations through Just Enterprise and have worked with a diverse range of clients to help them with appointing and managing their boards.

Building a More Inclusive Future

By taking intentional steps towards inclusion, social enterprises, charities, community enterprises, and development trusts can build boards that better reflect the communities they serve and drive positive change in their organisations and beyond. This International Women’s Day, let’s commit to creating a more inclusive future for all women, where every individual’s unique perspective and experiences are valued and celebrated.



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