The inclusion of those with experience of a charity’s cause gets straight to the heart of great governance

Lived experience on nonprofit boards

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.  Sections to explore include:

You'll also find a section on the specific challenges of lived experience on UK based international NGO boards.

Within each section you will find:

  • Insights from our 2020 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

About this resource

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.

The core of this resource 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.

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, equity, 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 equity, diversity and inclusion, will certainly amplify user voice, and will undoubtedly lead to better governance, especially better quality, evidence based decision making.

Useful links

There is a growing body of materials on approaches to improve equity, 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.

Great governance

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Lived experience leadership

Service user involvement

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.