Lived experience on nonprofit boards
The inclusion of those with experience of a charity’s cause gets straight to the heart of great governance
Lived experience on nonprofit boards
The benefits of ensuring lived experience of the organisation's cause on nonprofit boards far outweigh the costs, even with the adjustments that may be needed to overcome some barriers. This crucial voice will:
- Be there from the start of generative strategic conversation
- Remain as a constant challenge as boards make evidence based decisions
- Help to scrutinise performance through the eyes of the beneficiary
- Ensure accountability to our community and wider society.
About this resource
This online resource sets out some of the ways that nonprofit organisations have made adjustments and overcome barriers in order to reap the benefits of including trustees with lived experience of the charity's cause on their boards. At its core is material gleaned from a broad range of organisations that attended a CCE seminar on Lived Experience on nonprofit boards, held in November 2020. Our seminar participants included a great diversity of organisations, spanning large and small, local and national, and from sectors including health and social care, homelessness, physical and mental health, learning disability, victim support and the youth sector. All are on the pathway towards improving their practice, and generously offered their insights, which we have built upon and extended.
Using this resource
Sections to explore include:
- The benefits of lived experience on charity boards
- The barriers to doing this well including:
- A range of approaches to overcoming the barriers.
Within each section you will find:
- Insights from our Lived Experience seminar contributors
- CCE perspectives - explorations that go a little deeper into key aspects
- Short case studies - real life experiences of individuals and organisations
- Useful links to related materials
CCE approach and rationale
Alongside our professional development and consultancy practice, a focus on knowledge exchange is a core part of Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE) work. This resource about lived experience on nonprofit boards reflects not just our interest in the topic, but the acknowledgement by many of our consultancy clients that, as they strive to improve their practice in this respect, there has been little material available to support their endeavour.
The value of having trustees with lived experience of the cause on charity boards lies at the intersection of three somewhat better explored and documented areas of focus for our sector: great governance, diversity and inclusion, and amplifying the ‘user’ voice. Whilst we can get insights from each of these about having trustees with lived experience on boards, more specific guidance is needed.
A focus on getting trustees with lived experience on charity boards will have knock on benefits to an organisation’s endeavours to improve diversity and inclusion, will certainly amplify user voice, and will undoubtedly lead to better governance, especially better quality, evidence based decision making.
There is a growing body of materials on approaches to improve equality, diversity and inclusion, service user involvement, and governance, and some links to starting points for exploration of this topic can be found here. You will find more useful links in each section of this online resource.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
- See the recently strengthened Principle 6 of the Charity Governance Code; and a stepped approach to increasing board diversity
- Charity Commission: CC24 Users on Board: beneficiaries who become trustees
- From the corporate sector, an update (2020) on the Parker Review on board diversity
- From unconscious bias to conscious inclusion.
Lived experience leadership
- See the Lived Experience Leaders Movement (LEx). The Centre is home to the Lived Experience Leaders Movement, a network connecting, supporting and strengthening the capacity of LEx Leaders to create systems-level change, helping all our communities thrive.
- A report from Baljeet Sandhu (July 2019) on rebooting the DNA of leadership.
- Beyond Suffrage is a trustee training programme that has been developed to increase the number of women from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic communities, serving at board level. See also our Useful links in the Barriers: Ensuring lived experience is valued in decision making section of this online resource, for a Beyond Suffrage report on Transforming Board Cultures
- In this blog for NCVO, Lucy Caldicott looks at 'Where power lies: how lived experience is engaged in voluntary sector governance and decision making'. Lucy also provides a link to the work of Sound Delivery - working to amplify lived experience stories and expertise to address social inequalities.
Service user involvement
- NPC’s paper Make it count (why impact matters in user involvement) argues for a greater focus in the social and charity sector on what service user involvement aims to achieve and better efforts to evidence difference it can make.
We hope this resource will grow over time and we are keen to encourage any nonprofit, charity or social enterprise to:
- let us know what stage you are at on the pathway to greater board-level inclusion of those with lived experience of your organisation's cause,
- contribute your reflections about what works and what you have learned,
- share details of other materials that have helped,
- and tell us what else you would find helpful as we plan future updates to this resource.