In The Beginning

Diverse list of “brilliant charity speakers” is built over a weekend

by Howard Lake
First Published 8 April 2018

A practical tool to help boost the number of women speakers at charity conferences has been crowdsourced in just over a day. The Great Charity Speakers list presents charity conference organisers with a list of “fabulous, female speakers from the charity sector”.

The list was suggested by Mandy Johnson, who is CEO of the Small Charities Coalition.

On Friday evening she tweeted about the need for more diversity in charity conference speakers, asking for suggestions for a list of “brilliant speakers from the charity sector who are not white or male

“It has come to my attention that we need to provide conference organisers with a list of brilliant speakers from the charity sector who are not white or male (sorry guys – but they’ve got you covered in abundance). So, I am pulling together the list for them. Who should I include?

The appeal attracted rapid attention and plenty of replies. Johnson spent the rest of that evening trying to keep up with responses and producing the list. She has published “Great Charity Speakers” and updated it with new suggestions.

It now has over 140 names featured. (As at May 2018)

The value of such a list beyond conference organisers was evidently recognised, given the number of individuals and organisations sharing the request for suggestions

The responses included individuals, with explanations about why they deserved to be on the list.

Responses and Development

Below are conversations about the development of the list, primarily held on Twitter.

Are they all great speakers? I am reluctant just to include a list of people who are members of a group.

Side issue that this discussion has raised for me: there is also a need to support great women who have something useful to say in gaining those presentation skills and presentation confidence. Not necessarily to be included in your work but an issue nonetheless.

If they are looking for excellent non-male, non-white speakers you fit the bill perfectly and I would strongly urge to include and involve you.

At the moment the list is specific to people who work/volunteer for charities. I am noting down great names from social enterprises privately but these have not been included yet as I want to remain focused. Hope that makes sense?

Plenty of non-male, non-white and actually often young, experienced innovative speakers for conferences are available, so what’s the excuse? Yes to adding diversity to the sector thank you to Mandy for pulling this together!

If you work in the charity sector & get asked about speaking at a conference, ask about the diversity of the other speakers. If the organisers make excuses about it being hard to find a diverse range of speakers, please share this list with them

Johnson was careful to acknowledge fluidity in how people define their gender or ethnicity. She has therefore divided her list into two sections: and those “white people who do not identify as male”

There is currently a dominance of speakers with Twitter profiles but that is more a reflection of where Johnson first asked for suggestions. Other names are being suggested on charity sector Facebook discussion groups.

Johnson told UK Fundraising that she is keen to make the list as useful for conference organisers as possible. She has already divided its members into different skills and areas, to indicate why individuals have been recommended for inclusion.

As a result you can now find women CEOs and founders, finance experts, fundraising experts, service delivery experts, CSR experts, digital and tech experts, and more. Of course plenty of individuals could be listed in multiple categories so Johnson is considering how best to present this.

She’s also been careful to build the list herself and not to open it up at this stage to multiple authors, to avoid possible trolls and attempts to damage the initiative.

The list is novel and should have been produced many years ago. The dominance of male and white speakers at many charity sector conferences has been plain to see.

Your list is helpful. There are a few sector people who’ve signed up to the pledge not to be on all male panels & are challenging conference organisers when invited like

The Pledge – I will not be part of male-only panelsThe pledge “At a public conference I won’t serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair.”

However, as Johnson makes clear, her list is designed to change and expand the voices, the examples, and the inspiration that charity conferences present.

In introducing the Great Charity Speakers list she explains: “Too many times I am told that it is hard to find good speakers in the charity sector who aren’t male and/or white. I want to rid conference organisers of that excuse.

Let’s make sure “I couldn’t find anyone” can’t be used as an excuse for not having diversity on stage at our conferences.

If you work in the charity sector & get asked about speaking at a conference, ask about the diversity of the other speakers. If the organisers make excuses about it being hard to find a diverse range of speakers, please share this list with them.

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