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UK Charity Governance Awards 2023 winners announced

Melanie May | 9 June 2023 | News

UK Charity Governance Awards winners group shot with their trophies. Copyright Kate Darkins
UK Charity Governance Awards winners 2023. Copyright: Kate Darkins

Six charities have received unrestricted grants of £5,000 after winning this year’s UK Charity Governance Awards.

Announced last night (8 June), the winners are Merton Centre for Independent Living, Women in Prison, MQ Mental Health Research, Carers in Bedfordshire, Edinburgh School Uniform Bank and Depden Care Farm.

The award for ‘Board Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’ was given to joint winners Merton Centre for Independent Living and Women in Prison. The former, a charity run by disabled people for disabled people, impressed the judges with its proactive approach to recruiting, training and maintaining a board that fairly represents its beneficiaries in the local community it serves.


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Copyright: Kate Darkins

Women in Prison was given this award due to its commitment to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the organisation, starting at board level. The national charity embarked on a cultural shift to attract, train and maintain more women with lived experience of the criminal justice system to serve as trustees, and this culture is now reflected throughout the charity’s operations.

MQ Mental Health Research won new category, ‘From Systemic Challenge to Meaningful Change’, for how it navigated the shift in the mental health landscape during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This included brokering coalitions involving leading figures and setting out a roadmap of research priorities for the sector. 2022 was also the charity’s most successful ever year of fundraising.

Carers in Bedfordshire took the ‘Transforming with Digital’ award in recognition of the success of its digital transformation plan. After redeveloping the website, automating its registration service and streamlining its data reporting process, the charity has seen registrations increase by 60%; staff can now spend 33% more time on frontline services; and public engagement with the website has almost trebled.

Copyright: Kate Darkins

Edinburgh School Uniform Bank won the ‘Improving Impact in Small Charities (0-3 paid staff)’ award. When a bad weather incident highlighted that the uniform bank was not reaching those most in need, quickly enough with the most appropriate items, the board built on the success of a coat drive and ‘shoe shop’, developing a new strategy to deliver uniforms, including footwear and outerwear, instantly to over 2,000 of Edinburgh’s disadvantaged school pupils.

The ‘Improving Impact in Small Charities (4-30 paid staff)’ award was won by Depden Care Farm, where adults with additional needs can take part in work and learning programmes in areas such as animal husbandry and horticulture. After a period of significant growth, the charity reached a plateau and the board realised changes were needed. Since introducing a three-year plan rooted in research and involving changes to operational procedures, training, and fundraising to improve accessibility, the charity’s impact has risen – around 50% of beneficiaries progress to working on the contract team; of those people managing their mental health or mild autism, approximately 75% go on to employment or volunteering.

Deepak Nambisan, who chairs the UK Charity Governance Awards for the organisers The Clothworkers’ Company, said:

“Many congratulations to our inspirational winners and everyone who made it onto the shortlist. It’s heartening to see that ingenuity, commitment and passion are thriving in the sector, often within challenging circumstances.


“This year, we’ve been struck by the impressive showing from the country’s smallest charities – more than half of all nominees are charities with fewer than 30 employees. This is a shining example of how trustees with foresight, imagination and an authentic connection to their beneficiaries can overcome barriers and achieve great things.”

Each winner received a £5,000 cash prize (as an unrestricted grant), with all runners-up receiving a prize of £1,000. All the winners and shortlisted charities were also rewarded with a paid one-year membership of the Association of Chairs for their board, and a complementary place on a Cause4 Trustee Leadership Programme for a new member of their board.