New report says charity leaders must be accountable for making progress on race equity

Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector highlights the voices and experiences of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic (BAME) people working in the charity sector, many of whom are subject to racism and antagonism that is not faced by white colleagues.

The research, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, involved 493 detailed responses to an online survey from BAME people working in the sector, 24 in-depth interviews with white and BAME participants and two roundtables, one with racial justice activists and one with ‘systems-shapers’, such as funders and membership bodies, that have influence on the debates and priorities within the sector.

The findings demonstrate that the problem in the charity sector is not simply an absence of BAME people. Once inside the sector, significant numbers of BAME people experience discrimination and harm. 

68% (n= 335) of BAME respondents to the online survey had experienced, witnessed or heard stories of racism in the charity sector and 50% (n=246) reported feeling the need to ‘tone down’ their behaviour in order to fit in within the sector. Direct experiences of racism reported in the survey include:

  • 222 (45%) of total respondents had been subject to ignorant or insensitive questioning about their culture or religion;
  • 147 (30%) of total respondents had been treated as an intellectual inferior
  • 114 (23%) of total respondents had been subject to excessive surveillance and scrutiny by colleagues, managers, or supervisors.

The report argues that, in order to face fully the question of racism and achieve real progress on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) there needs to be a change of culture and power dynamics. To do this, charities need to make racial equity a focus of external work as well as setting meaningful internal DEI targets. The report further recommends that charity leaders are held accountable for progress on DEI targets and that they take ownership of their learning on racism and anti-racism so that they can help to challenge and undo racist systems.

Positively, there appears to be an appetite for progress. And this report is intended to provide a supportive framework for those who want real change. The report lays out steps both to further open up the charity sector to BAME people and to reorientate charity work towards building a racially just society.

Kunle Olulode, CEO of Voice4Change England says: “Racism remains with us in the 21st century. This is not just the result of ignorance but, as laid bare by Covid-19, is a product of a society designed to benefit some people over others.

Home Truths shows us that the charity sector, despite good intentions, still reproduces racial inequality, blocking BAME people from positions of influence and power through policies and processes designed without them in mind. Ultimately this inequality holds back our sector from fulfilling its core purpose and stalls progress towards racial justice in society. 

“This report provides an honest and constructive examination of the realities and impact of racism in the charity sector. It provides not just description of the problem, but serious thought about how we can fix things too. It is a call for transformation. I hope everyone that reads the report answers that call.”

Vicky Browning, CEO of ACEVO, says: “For many BAME people working in the charity sector the findings in this report will not be surprising. However, for many white leaders Home Truths will be a shock and may make them feel defensive. But this report is not about pointing fingers and assigning blame: it is about encouraging more leaders to accept responsibility for what needs to be done. By accepting responsibility and committing to action, we can stop asking for more evidence of the problem and move forward together to build real diversity.”

The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.

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