How to carry out a diversity audit

A diversity audit can help you understand how diverse your current board is and spot the gaps.

Diversity audits can be revealing because not all difference is visible, for example class, sexuality or invisible disability. Some trustees may not want to disclose this information about themselves in a way that makes them identifiable, but they might be happy to do so anonymously, at the level of the whole board.

The results can help to focus attention and prompt action. Use a diversity audit as one tool in a wider discussion about the kinds of diversity that are important to your board, and how to build an inclusive culture.

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Working with Special Category Data

A diversity audit asks for sensitive personal information, and it is important to follow the ICO guidelines in collecting, processing and sharing of ‘Special Category Data’ including explaining why you are collecting it and how you will use it, keeping the data safe and ensuring that you protect individuals’ anonymity. For this reason we recommend collecting this data using an anonymous online form, and viewing the data for each characteristic only in aggregate . Given the small numbers of trustees on a board, you may need to ‘roll up’ the results into broader categories, when sharing the results, to protect anonymity and ensure no data is attributable to any one individual.

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Questions to ask

Our template asks questions designed to measure gender, age, disability, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic diversity, and caring responsibilities. If you want a narrower focus, please just delete the questions you don’t need.

We have used standard terms where possible. For example the ethnicity categories from the UK Census 2021. Some areas, such as socio-economic background, are more difficult to measure. We have chosen questions that align to best practice recommendations. For example, our 'secondary school type' and 'parental occupation' questions are modelled on those outlined by the Social Mobility Commission.

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Analysing the results

You can use the results of your diversity audit to:

  • Identify which characteristics are over-represented and which ones are under-represented on your board
  • Explore the implications. How does this affect your ability to lead and govern well as a board? Which characteristics are most relevant to your charity’s purpose?

Discuss why certain groups are under-represented. What has led to this situation? What do you need to change to get a more balance board?

It can be helpful to benchmark your results. Choose the most relevant group for comparison that you can - for example, your local community or the UK population. Census data is useful. The Social Mobility Commission provides benchmarks for the socioeconomic questions. You may also find Reach’s research on Trustee Diversity useful.

You can use the results of benchmarking to set targets. See an example of this by ACEVO

Assuming you asked for permission when you collected the data, you can also share your results publicly, as part of your commitment to transparency on EDI.

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Using your findings for your trustee recruitment

Agree the target groups for your next recruitment. It is fine to be upfront about this in your recruitment materials. You can do this with a clear statement that you welcome applicants of specific backgrounds or identities because they are currently under-represented on your board. This can encourage people who might not have considered applying to do so. It’s really important to talk about specific characteristics in the wider context of why they are important to your charity. This will help you to explain to why you value them, and avoid tokenism. An open statement about where you are in your diversity journey can be helpful to applicants. However, unless you are recruiting for lived experience (personal experience of your cause) it is always best to recruit for skills, expertise and protected characteristics at the same time. Read more about how to make your board diverse.

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Diversity audit template

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Trustee Recruitment Cycle

The Trustee Recruitment Cycle helps boards recruit openly, for diversity of skills and experience. Providing information, tools and examples from real charities, we take you through the whole recruitment process.

Reflect > Prepare > Advertise > Shortlist & interview > Appoint & induct > Evaluate