#CharitySoWhite meet with NCVO to discuss racism in the charity sector

Charity SoWhite
Oct 29 · 4 min read

On Thursday 24th October the #CharitySoWhite team met with Karl Wilding, CEO of NCVO and two BAME members of NCVO’s EDI working group (1) to discuss institutional racism in the charity sector and NCVO’s role as an infrastructure body in tackling these issues.

Too often discussions on power, privilege, diversity, and inclusion are held behind closed doors, without public accountability. To begin to change this trend NCVO agreed to share the date, time and details of the meeting.

NCVO’s Response to the Campaign

The staff at NCVO gave us an overview of the internal response at NCVO to the campaign to date.They raised that the campaign had sparked internal conversations about racism throughout the organisation, including at board level, and that they had begun to bring together a number of initial actions which would allow them to be better placed to respond to similar issues in the sector going forward.

The #CharitySoWhite team flagged that racism was a continual presence in the sector with incidents happening regardless of their visibility. We urged NCVO to consider making a public statement. The NCVO team acknowledged that they had failed to publicly respond both to the Citizens Advice scandal and #CharitySoWhite campaign, and agree that they are still able to do so now.

The Challenge and Potential of Leading Anti-Racist Work

We discussed with NCVO the challenge posed to doing anti-racist work by the fact that people in leadership positions were not willing to step forward and publicly discuss issues of racism in the sector and at their organisation.

We agreed that:

  • Many leaders in the sector fear discussing issues publicly because of the real/ perceived risk of damage to income
  • Trustees and boards were critical in achieving change but that there were opportunities for management teams to take the lead in shifting conversations and building trust
  • Seeking a strictly data-driven approach did not cut to the heart of the issue. We know there is a growing body of evidence, and the question is why teams choose not to prioritise the work. This is not about numbers — it is the existential question of how effective charities can be if they do not directly tackle injustice at its core.

We concluded that the heart of anti-racist work within the sector should be centered in an approach which is rooted in honesty, humility, and hope:

  • Honesty in our our choices to date, and what is preventing us from achieving change, framed in a public discussion that allows for real accountability
  • Humility in our understanding and acknowledgement that none of us know for certain the perfect approach, but that this will not prevent us from seeking answers and working with others to create a better world.
  • Hope in our ability to move the needle and make a difference.

Our Ask

We asked NCVO to consider its role as a leader in the sector and be proactive in supporting the sector as it comes to terms with institutional racism within itself.

We asked, as a first step, for them to show leadership by coming forward and publicly discussing issues of racism in the sector; specifically to make a public statement acknowledging institutional racism at NCVO and throughout the sector.

We also discussed a number of actions we believe NCVO need to urgently take including:

  • Investing in resources and training for their staff and their members on power and privilege. We also highlighted suggested actions from our campaign input workshops and our specific request for thoughts on twitter. (2)
  • Broaden the scope of the Almanac to gather data and evidence to support the case and the implementation of anti-racist work in the sector
  • Actively work to increase membership amongst BAME led local charities
  • Ensure their events and conferences which drive a significant portion of their revenue are diverse in terms of speakers and attendees, and do not perpetuate structural barriers to participation (e.g., ensuring speakers are paid for their time)

We understand that some of these issues have already been the subject of discussion within NCVO. We urged the staff team to make these public and provide accountability mechanisms to ensure they are prioritised. NCVO were clear that they were unable to make tangible commitments in the room. They have since invited the team to two events pro-bono, which we will be first offering to our organising team and then to the #POCImpact team. NCVO have also invited us to a future meeting of the CEOs of 15 infrastructure bodies that Karl has recently formed.

#CharitySoWhite and NCVO have agreed to meet again in December assuming that NCVO develops the actions discussed.

Edits Tracking
(1) In a previous version we wrote that the two BAME employees were staff members. This did not reflect their role in shaping EDI in NCVO. We changed this to “two BAME members of NCVO’s EDI working group”.

(2) There was a typo in this sentence in a previous version: “We also highlighted through our campaign input workshops”

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