The Non-Executive Summary

A selection of recommended readings from Pears Foundation’s Partners to mark Trustees’ Week 2018.

12th November 2018

Trustees offer hugely valuable support to charities of all shapes and sizes across the UK.  In turn, they are supported by a collection of membership groups and organisations (some listed here: that provide help, guidance and support.

At Pears Foundation, we are very proud to support a number of these infrastructure bodies, so to mark Trustees’ Week 2018 we asked some of them to recommend a reading (or viewing) to inspire, enlighten, or even just provide some light relief.  And because we couldn’t resist, we’ve added a bonus one from us as well.

Please feel free to share and, of course, add your own if you feel inspired.


Rosalind Oakley, Association of Chairs

If you think governance is all about dry boring compliance, this book will make you think again. It lays out a vision of what great governance can be- utterly transformative: Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, Barbara E. Taylor.

Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards

A Chair’s Compass (By Ruth Lesirge & Rosalind Oakley), sets out the key role of the Chair. It provides insights and tips on improving chair performance and board effectiveness. It is useful to both new and highly experienced Chairs, as well as those who support them – including Vice Chairs, trustees, Chief Executives and governance advisers.  

A Chair’s Compass – a guide for Chairs of charities and non-profit organisations

Further resources are also available on the Association of Chairs website.

Vicky Browning, ACEVO

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to improving diversity and equality of opportunity in the charity sector. Talking about race and diversity can make many people worried that they will say the wrong thing or cause offence. This creates silence where meaningful communication should be taking place.

I recommend starting with, ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge and then read ACEVO’s ‘Racial diversity in the charity sector’ report which gives practical advice on how to change your recruitment practices.


Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race

Racial diversity in the charity sector

Further resources are also available on ACEVO’s website.

Carol Mack, Associations of Charitable Foundations

I’d recommend this article by Julia Unwin on the 5Ss in governance, because it sheds light on the different modes that boards operate in, as well as the roles that individuals play within those boards.



Ben Cairns, IVAR

Across a range of projects with small voluntary organisations, we’ve seen how important it is for trustees to be involved in thinking through Why and How their organisations can adapt and improve. We’ve recently started working with CAST (Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology), and have found their digital design principles to be a really useful tool – not only for designing digital services, but as a checklist when you start thinking about developing any new service.    


Penny Wilson, Getting on Board

My first recommendation is Taken on Trust, a report by the Charity Commission into awareness and effectiveness of charity trustees in England and Wales. This report outlines the chronic lack of diversity on charity boards, with, for example, men outnumbering women 2:1 and the average age of trustees being 60-62 years. It seems somehow more shocking that the sector set up to represent the voices of the marginalised, does not have good representation of the communities it serves on its own boards.

My second recommendation is our own research: The looming crisis in charity trustee recruitment: how poor trustee recruitment practices threaten to damage the effectiveness of UK charities. It found that 76% of charities struggle with trustee recruitment and that 90% of charities recruit most of their trustees through word-of-mouth and existing networks.

Amanda Tincknell, Cranfield Trust

I’d recommend this great TED talk by the Prime Minister of Bhutan!  The first 7-8 minutes in particular are a fantastic demonstration of purpose, making sure your constitution is up to date, and setting clear strategic goals. 


And our Programme Manager, Kari, recommends What money can’t buy: The morals limit of markets, by Michael SandelThis asks some very useful questions about our norms and values, illustrated by excellent examples – does offering reluctant readers financial rewards help drive literacy in schools, or does it have unintended consequences?

What money can’t buy: The morals limit of markets