UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 /
How many trustees of voluntary organisations are there in the UK?

What is a trustee?

Charity trustees are the people who serve on the governing body of a charity. They may be known as trustees, directors, board members, governors or committee members. Trustees have, and must accept, ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, and meeting the needs for which it has been set up. The great majority of trustees serve as volunteers, and receive no payment for their work.

In 2009/10 there were 834,000 trustee board positions within voluntary organisations in the UK.[73a] The number of trustees is likely to be substantially less: research suggests 45% of trustees are members of two boards.[73b] We therefore estimate that there are 580,000 trustees in UK voluntary organisations. Just over one in seven (15%) registered charities reported that they had an insufficient number of trustees and management committee members in 2010.[73c]

What proportion of trustees is female?

We estimate that just over 400,000 trustee positions in the UK are held by women, equating to 48% of all trustee positions. The majority of trustees on nearly four in every ten boards (39%) are female. Of these, 14% of boards are all female. Conversely, the majority of trustees on over half of all boards (51%) are male with 17% of boards being all male.

How does the proportion of males and females on a board differ by sub-sector?

Whilst the overall number of trustees in the UK is split fairly equally between men and women, it masks a number of key differences. More than two thirds of trustees who are on the boards of religious and research organisations are male (67% and 66% respectively). Only four sub-sectors have a higher proportion of women on their boards than men. In particular, nearly nine tenths of trustees (88%) who are on the boards of playgroups are female alongside eight-tenths (80%) of the board members of parent teacher associations (PTAs). When PTAs and playgroups are excluded, the ratio of men and women on charity boards changes from 52:48 to 57:43.

Proportion of trustees by gender by sub-sector, 2009/10
Chart showing the proportion of trustees by gender - the trustees of religious organisations are two-thirds male, while playgroups and nurseries have 88% female trustees.

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How does the proportion of males and females on a board differ by size of organisation?

Micro and small charities have an equal split of male and female trustees (50:50 and 49:51 respectively); however, there are many more men on the boards of large and major charities than women (67:33 each). The larger a charity is, the more likely it will have a higher proportion of men on its board than women. There are similarities between these findings and another recent study in to the gender of leaders within the voluntary sector which identified that whilst nearly half of all leaders were women (46%), they were particularly under-represented in larger charities.[73d]

Five pie charts showing that larger organisations have a higher percentage of male trustees than smaller ones.

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UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 / The Voluntary Sector /Volunteers and workforce /Volunteering

Published: 17-02-2012