We’ve been making some big changes to the Reach Volunteering website which we plan to launch in January.
Our website will have a whole new look and feel and be easier to use. As always, we will be keen to hear your feedback, so you can let us what you like and where you think we still need to keep working.
Our website is at the heart of what we do. We’re proud of our service, but we know our website could be better, and that we don’t always explain who we are and what we do as well as we could. The way that we display information does not always do justice to the fantastic volunteers who join us, or the great trustee and volunteering opportunities that charities post. We have been gathering feedback and have used this to inform the new design.
Once we have launched the new site, we will be looking at how well it’s working, and what more we could do. We will then move on to improving other elements such as the search tool. As always, we’ll be working closely with you to explore what the issues are, and we’ll be testing solutions as we go, until we’re happy that they work from your perspective.
Here at Reach, we are always keen to hear your thoughts, so drop us a line with any feedback to: email@example.com
Charities often struggle to achieve diversity on their boards, with one of the main concerns being the lack of young trustees given that the average age of a trustee is 57.
It is estimated that only 2 per cent of charities have young people on their board. Whilst a survey, carried out by The Charities Aid Foundation, shows that 85 per cent of people under 35 would consider becoming a trustee. With those figures in mind, it is clear that charities should be exploring ways to recruit young people.
Expanding your recruitment process and networks will enable you to reach and attract young people to your board. It is important that you signal your openness and recruit via multiple channels, beyond your usual networks.
One of the biggest setbacks young trustees face is having flexibility with their time, given that they are likely to be in full time employment. To overcome this potential barrier, be open to adapt to the needs of your trustees by giving plenty of notice prior to board meetings and scheduling meetings for a time which suits the board as a whole.
It is also important to offer young trustees an induction process to ensure that they feel supported and valued whilst gaining a deeper understanding of their role.
There are a variety of ways you can do this. An existing trustee could take on the role of a mentor to provide support and a point of contact for a young trustee. Offering resources, such as The Young Charity Trustees Guide developed by The Charities Aid Foundation, will also be useful. The Young Charity Trustee Group on LinkedIn provides a useful networking platform for young trustees to share their experiences, give advice and provide support.
Depending on the background and experience of the young people you have recruited, you might need to consider other ways of ensuring that they can participate on an equal footing with other trustees.
Consider how you can make your board papers more accessible, and your meetings more engaging. Giving young trustees a specific role or focus area that they can take the lead on can be a good way to empower them.
Young trustees will increase your board’s diversity. As with any kind of diversity this will bring its challenges but the potential benefits are worth it. The board gains valuable new insights and perspectives from enthusiastic young people, resulting in more rounded and better decision making, whilst a young person has the opportunity to develop their existing skills whilst contributing to a charity they care about.
Read about Leap Confronting Conflict, winner of 2016 Board Diversity and Inclusion award, and how the charity involves young people in its board.
Overall, figures show that there is a vast pool of potential young trustees out there who are interested in joining a charity board. Whilst it may take slightly more time and effort to reach and attract young people to your board, the benefits that they will bring are certainly worth it.
Reach Volunteering and Community First Yorkshire are celebrating Trustees Week by launching the Hands Up for Trustees campaign.
The campaign aims to match volunteers in North Yorkshire looking for trustee positions with charities and not-for-profits looking for skills-based and experienced trustees
The campaign will register volunteers and host organisations, and provide mutual opportunities to recruit, develop, and sustain trustees. The aim is to increase the number and diversity of trustees in North Yorkshire.
Mark Hopley, Head of Community and Volunteer Support At Community First Yorkshire, is heading up the campaign:
‘Here at Community First Yorkshire, we’ve noticed that the number of skills-based and experienced volunteers looking for trustee roles is on the increase. There are currently over one million trustees in the UK looking for a host organisation. However, the latest National Trustee Survey has identified that over 40 per cent of organisations say they have found it harder to recruit trustees in the past two years.
‘By working with Reach Volunteering through the campaign, we aim to register and match trustees and organisations so that more experienced volunteers can find opportunities where they can use their skills to help their communities.
‘Trustees are the people in charge of charities,” explains Mark. ‘They share ultimate responsibility for governing them and directing how they are managed and run. Good governance in charities is fundamental to their success.
‘Research with trustees carried out in 2016 shows that 50 per cent of respondents have only been trustees for three years or less, so there is a clear need for training, and sharing good practice. Community First Yorkshire is offering a number of networking and support activities for volunteers and charities.’
Janet Thorne, Chief Executive of Reach Volunteering, says ‘We are delighted to be working with Community First Yorkshire to recruit more trustees to local charities in North Yorkshire.
‘It is essential that a board of trustees has a wide mix of skills and experience so that it can provide good leadership for its charity. Boards do sometimes say that they find it hard to recruit new trustees, but there are many people out there with valuable expertise who are willing to become trustees. Research shows that the vast majority of trustees find the experience really rewarding, so it’s a win-win.
‘By working with Community First Yorkshire we can combine Reach’s online platform and our national partnerships (for example with LinkedIn) with Community First’s local knowledge, relationships and services to create a more valuable service to local charities.’
The Hands Up for Trustees campaign launches a recruitment survey on 14 November for North Yorkshire charities to tell Community First Yorkshire about their experience of recruiting trustees and what roles they are looking to fill in 2018.
Today sees the release of the most systematic survey of charity trustees to date. The findings are at once concerning and encouraging. They highlight some significant shortfalls in charity governance but they also point to solutions that are, for once, very obvious and actionable – at least at the level of individual boards.
The report is based on analysis of the data that the Charity Commission holds on trustees and the results of a survey asking trustees about their perceptions.
Boards are typically ‘pale, male and stale: 92 percent white, two thirds are male and the average age is 55 – 64. Three quarters earn above the national median income.
The lack of demographic diversity is reflected in terms of skills and professional experience. Boards have insufficient skills in key functional areas such as marketing and digital
Previous estimates by the charity commission suggested that there are 850,000 trustees. In fact there are only 700,000. Many of these trustees serve on more than one board, and the average is 1.35 board positions per trustee
Over 70% of trustees are recruited through informal channels. This is really problematic, given the narrow background from which trustees are drawn, the fact that so many trustees are recruiting fellow board members from their own networks just perpetuates the lack of diversity and expertise on boards.
Being a trustee is a voluntary position, so perhaps we should just be grateful that anyone is putting their hand up for the job? But good governance is too important to leave it at this.
Boards hold the executive team to account, and offer it much needed support; they ensure that the beneficiaries needs are prioritised, that the charity is run sustainably and that it remains true to its purpose. A good board is key to any thriving charity, and conversely, a poor board can bring a good charity down.
Boards will only make good well rounded decisions if the trustees have a range of skills, experience and perspectives. What happens when trustees share very similar backgrounds?
Lack of legitimacy. Charities work with marginalised communities who are often excluded from positions of power. If the boards of these very same charities do not include trustees from their communities, what legitimacy can they have?
Groupthink. It is well documented that diverse groups make better decisions. If everyone shares the same perspective they will also share the same blind spot.
Lack of leadership. The world is changing fast, and charities need leaders with the right skills and expertise to help them seize opportunities and navigate difficulties. Digital is a good example of this. It emerges from the research as one of the functional skills most lacking at board level. Another recent research report found that over 70 percent charities say that their boards have low digital skills, and that this constrains the charity’s ability to develop.
Ninety per cent of trustees say that they find their role rewarding and 94 per cent say that the role is important to them. Being a trustee brings personal and professional benefits so it should be possible to attract a wider group of people.
Our experience at Reach Volunteering is that if you recruit purposefully, and invest time and effort, even smaller charities can attract good trustees who will expand the range of skills, experience and diversity of their board.
And once recruited, these trustees will have a very positive impact. 87 per cent of charities who recruited through our service say that the new trustee strengthened their governance, and 95 per cent say that the new trustee increased the diversity of skills and expertise on the board.
The survey does not ask this question. We find that it is often down to culture (the board has always recruited informally), confidence, or lack of time. Whilst lack of time may be a real constraint, it is not a good reason. The board chooses how it prioritises its time, and ensuring that they have the right team to carry out their role effectively is surely one of the most important things that they can do. And doing it well is likely to save time in the end.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. As the research shows, issues vary with size. Eighty per cent of charities have no staff at all, and the trustees do the (operational) work as well as the governance. Being a trustee for Oxfam is very different from being a ‘hands-on’ trustee of a local scout group or village hall and recruitment methods (and target audiences) will be different for both. This is one of the reasons I am unconvinced by some of the report’s recommendations – for example a national register of trustee vacancies.
However, a more joined up approach by those who support charities to recruit trustees could certainly pay dividends. Reach is part of a working group exploring how we can develop a more a collaborative approach to encourage and support more charities to take an open approach to recruiting trustees. This is not just possible, it is essential: charities need boards with a breadth of skills and experience, to earn legitimacy and to provide good leadership.
Reach Volunteering was a member of the research advisory group for this syrvey. The Charity Commission will be giving free access to all the data sets soon.
Reach runs a trustee recruitment service that is free of charge to all charities with a turnover of under £1 million. Last year we recruited 450 trustees.
Our programme Building boards for a digital age is a useful starting point to help boards recruit trustees with digital expertise.
Good governance is all about understanding the options facing the organisation and their implications. In this guest blog, Peter Kelly, Business Development Director at Charity Bank, provides an introduction to loan finance for charity trustees.
Charity trustees and management need to understand what loan finance can offer to determine whether it is a suitable option for them.
Indeed loans are not right for all situations or organisations and careful consideration of the financial commitment should always be taken. In the right circumstances, however loans can be a valuable tool for a charity to further its charitable mission.
A loan can help organisations become more sustainable. For instance, it can allow you to buy a property rather than continuing to pay rent. This is one of the most common uses of Charity Bank loans.
Loans can help a charity to grow its income. Borrowing to invest in a new activity that increases income can be a fast track to growth, with the additional income helping to repay the loan. In this way, loans can reduce reliance on grants and donations, whilst allowing you to broaden your range of services.
Loans can help bring in grants. In Charity Bank’s latest social impact study 46 per cent of respondents from its existing borrowers reported that the loan helped them unlock funding they couldn’t have accessed otherwise.
Loans can be useful in the short-term. A loan can also be used to bridge the receipt of retrospective grants or payments under service delivery contracts. This can help smooth cashflow deficits and make it easier to plan and manage your finances.
In short, in the right circumstances a loan can empower charities to: seize opportunities, extend their reach, smooth cashflow, improve financial sustainability and leverage additional funds.
Before applying for a loan, it’s useful to know what a lender will look for when considering a loan application. Some of the key factors considered in the due diligence process are as follows.
First and foremost, a lender will be looking for evidence that a borrower can afford to repay the loan. The charity will need to be sustainable and ideally have several streams of income so that repayment isn’t reliant on any one source. The charity will also need to demonstrate that it can continue to repay the borrowing following external events such as rises in the general level of interest rates.
As part of the loan process, a lender would expect to see a business plan including financial projections. Once overheads, expenses and any plans to generate future revenue are considered, will the charity have sufficient surplus income available to afford the loan repayments?
The governance of a charity is important and will be taken into consideration: who are the management and trustees, how long have they been involved and do they collectively have the breadth of experience and skills to manage the organisation?
Reach Volunteering provides a template to allow you to perform a skills audit with your board. A skills audit will capture the current skills of the trustee board and highlight possible gaps in trustee skills or where professional guidance is required.
A lender will need to see evidence that a charity’s governing documents (this may be a Trust Deed or Articles of Association) give the legal powers to borrow and, if necessary, to pledge assets as security for the loan. This is not always clear, so you may need to take professional advice.
Unincorporated organisations have an implied power to borrow but may still require a specific power to charge assets. Changing your powers to allow borrowing or the giving of security is usually a relatively straightforward process and your legal advisers will be able to guide you through this.
Social lenders, such as Charity Bank, will also wish to understand the social impact of a charity and of the proposed use of the loan. They will want you to provide evidence of the good work your organisation is doing with tangible examples that it delivers social benefit.
Loans will usually require security. Examples of security offered against a loan could be property, cash deposits or a guarantee from a trading subsidiary.
Whatever your situation or proposal, the best guidance we can give is to open a dialogue with potential lenders at an early stage. This will give you the best possible chance of finding a loan that’s suitable for you needs and of ensuring you have sufficient time to get it approved.
Peter Kelly is Business Development Director at Charity Bank, the ethical bank that lends solely to charities, social enterprises and other organisations where the loan is for social purpose. Charity Bank is run for the sector and owned by the sector, as all its shareholders are charitable trusts, foundations and social purpose organisations.
Gina shares her thoughts on the impact of skills-based volunteering.
The intangible benefits of giving have been explained and demonstrated in a variety of ways. They never lose their relevance. Giving a helping hand to those in need is welcome in most circumstances, but when you get to apply your skills to help not one person but many, the satisfaction multiplies.
Skills-based volunteering is a win-win concept that contributes to the development and success of many charitable causes. Simultaneously, it re-energises and revamps the talents and skills of the volunteers. It is an impactful way of giving back by channeling volunteers’ passions and abilities for the benefit of people who are true in need of them.
The value generated by this kind of relationship is priceless.
Together skills-based volunteers and non-profits are meeting a broad range of needs such as trusteeships, accountancy, digital marketing, media, communication strategy, finance and management, to name a few.
From the perspective of a volunteer’s career, according to Linkedin, 41 per cent of hiring managers consider volunteer work to be equally as valuable as paid work; 20 per cent of hiring managers in the US agree that they have hired candidates because of their volunteer experience, and 27 per cent of job seekers are more likely to be hired when unemployed if they are volunteers.
Reach Volunteering works in partnership with Linkedin to recruit volunteers from the millions of professionals registered with this professional platform. Whether you’re a marketing executive at a large company, a business owner who runs a small local shop or even taking a career break, volunteering your skills could offer you that rewarding feeling you have been looking for. The Reach self service platform is the perfect way to find the opportunity that suits you – and once you are registered, charities can find you too.
By creating a profile and searching for volunteering and trustee opportunities, you can contribute to social good and multiply your potential!
This blog first appeared on the Charity Bank website in June 2017.
Finding ways to strengthen your board is never easy and there is no single solution that will work for every board.
To be more effective, however, boards do need to ask themselves searching questions regarding:
A good board makes all the difference to your charity’s future. Poor governance can lead to loss of strategic focus and ineffective oversight of a charity’s management. On the other hand, a strong board will create a shared vision, renewed purpose and ensure that the charity makes the right strategic decisions. Only the board itself can improve its governance, so it is important that it takes this responsibility seriously.
1. Reflecting on the Code of Good Governance
Creating a time and space in which your board can collectively reflect on their work is absolutely essential for ensuring that you are carrying out your duties properly.
The Code of Good Governance is a wonderful tool to help you do this. The Code centres on seven key themes:
By adopting the Code, board members are committing to a shared understanding of their duties and responsibilities as well as gaining a framework with which to structure a thorough, self-reflective and on-going analysis of their work.
It’s worth noting that inviting an external expert to facilitate the process (either an experienced volunteer or paid consultant) can enhance this process, providing additional impartiality and objectivity especially useful to a board reviewing itself for the first time.
2. Regular skills audits
Making sure that the board is aware of the skill sets it has and those it needs should also be an on-going process. You should set aside a time at least once a year to appraise your composition in relation to anticipated projects and plans.
This will allow you to clearly see where the organisation is going and what expertise you will need, as well as helping you to intelligently anticipate challenges and opportunities.
3. Strong recruitment and induction processes
Recruitment isn’t just about bringing on board valuable new expertise, it’s a process that implicitly sets the tone, culture and expectations of the board.
A strong recruitment process should include open recruitment, induction, training, mentorship and support. These factors combine to directly demonstrate to new trustees how it is they are expected to contribute their expertise and will ultimately result in more engaged, conscientious and capable trustee placements.
4. Create a succession plan
As most trustees well know, recruitment is an on-going process. All too often it can feel like, just as one trustee joins the board, another is preparing to leave. Anticipating this by coaching and mentoring existing trustees to take on important roles such as those of Chair and Treasurer can be a great way of limiting the impact of trustees leaving.
It’s a good idea to make plans for finding suitable replacements for retiring trustees well in advance so they can hand-over their responsibilities and duties properly.
A succession plan is also a great way to avoid the opposite challenge: too little turnover. Trustees should not stay on forever – bringing new trustees on board with fresh perspectives is healthy part of the organisation’s development and should be an integral part of your board’s strategic planning.
5. Training, development and networking
Whilst many boards may not have a budget for training their trustees, you should at least consider some of the courses and networking opportunities out there.
You don’t have to spend your entire governance budget to receive guidance from an expert: Small Charities Coalition, Civil Society and NCVO all offer great opportunities to learn from experts and other trustees.
Similarly, joining appropriate professional and support networks like the Association of Chairs and The Honorary Treasurers Forum can be great ways of meeting and learning from your peers. By joining the UK Charity Trustees group on LinkedIn you can connect directly with an active and friendly online community that is always willing to respond to questions with support and guidance. In addition, annual events like The Trustees Conference and the Trustee Exchange can also be helpful.
6. Constructive criticism & critical friends
Fostering a culture in which trustees are empowered to constructively challenge each other is the cornerstone of a well functioning board. Whilst it’s always incredibly important to respect each other’s opinions, avoiding awkwardness by not addressing potential issues with a given strategy can potentially lead the organisation down a far more precarious path.
Cultivating a culture in which all board members are empowered to challenge each other’s assumptions is a great way of making sure that strategies are tested and re-tested before being implemented and executed. This process is equally important for the Chair’s relationship with the CEO which should include support and challenge in equal measure.
Allowing board members the opportunity to voice their opinions and to challenge each other’s ideas not only reinforces inclusiveness, but can stimulate new ideas, uncover hidden pitfalls and generally refine an organisation’s strategy like no other discursive process.
We’re excited by the results of 2016, our first full year of operating our new online service.
Reach Volunteering supported over 930 placements last year, an increase of over 30 per cent on 2014, the last full year of our ‘offline’ service. And we estimate the total value of the skills transferred to the sector by our volunteers last year to be £13m.
Want to know more? Our latest annual review has all the detail.
The stories from this year’s Charity Governance Awards winners and entrants are a vivid illustration of the difference a good board can make. They tell of boards that have brought fresh thinking, integrity and a clear vision to their charity’s work, strengthened its impact and, sometimes, averted disaster. The charities themselves range from tiny to large, and their causes are diverse. The governance categories they entered include digital, diversity, impact and turnaround.
They are all stories of great leadership, exercised as a team, for a common cause.
This is quite at odds with the way that we, as a sector, usually talk about trusteeship. Often the focus is on the fiduciary and the language is all compliance, liability, duty. For a long time, I was deeply uninterested in anything to do with trusteeship: it had a fusty, almost Dickensian connotation, and the link between trustees and the work of the charity – the difference it made – seemed tenuous.
However, as the entrants for this year’s awards (and last year’s too) clearly demonstrate, good governance involves so much more than just getting the basics of compliance and scrutiny right.
A common theme of these stories is of trustees keeping hold of the bigger picture and not being afraid to think afresh about how their focus should shift in the context of a changing world. In some cases this meant deciding to narrow their remit to key strategic activity, and stopping anything that did not contribute to this. (This can be so hard to do in practice!) Dementia UK decided to focus on exclusively providing care through specialist Admiral Nurses. For others this meant broadening their mission to create a more holistic approach. For example, Off The Record expanded its work from providing counselling services for young people to a mental health service for the same audience. Body & Soul widened the focus of its services from young people with HIV to a broader range of beneficiaries. Always, the board were careful to keep true to the overall purpose of the charity, and to the needs of service users.
Another strand (and a refreshing change from the stereotype of risk averse boards) is the willingness of the trustees to be ready to try new things where this helps them achieve their goals. Voluntary Arts’ BAME Advisory Panel incorporated shared meals into their meetings to help build inclusivity, Raise the Roof has embedded the use of several off-the-shelf platforms to deliver services and increase participation at board level. There are stories of boards taking bold decisions, based on calculated risk to achieve more – for example, Preston Road Women’s Centre took advantage of the Empty Homes Partnership to develop a new programme providing safe accommodation for women escaping domestic abuse.
The entrants share an evident belief in the value of collective, and collaborative, action; a willingness to look outwards and work in partnership with other organisations. There is also a real seriousness: clarity about the change that the board wants to achieve and determination to draw on the right information and processes to achieve this. These are boards who are interested in the impact of their organisation’s work, who seek evidence of the difference their service makes and take corrective action where necessary. They are also boards who are willing to step up to the plate when the going gets tough. Witness the courage and commitment shown by the trustees of Kentish Town City Farm when faced with a seemingly hopeless situation.
These stories are important for three reasons. They show how there is more to being a trustee than scrutinising accounts. They also offer a counterpoint to the bad press that governance has had in the last couple of years – the plethora of stories about people doing it wrong and a focus on the ‘problems of governance’. This negative focus is problematic, and not only because it creates an unbalanced picture of trusteeship. It actually contributes to the problem: underlying much of the existing bad governance. From poor trustee recruitment to lack of board engagement, there is a lack of appreciation of, or even belief in, the difference that a good board can make to a charity. Sharing examples of good governance is one of the most powerful ways to help people to understand the value of good trusteeship. It makes it tangible. These stories demonstrate that good governance really does matter, that it really is possible, and that it is worth striving to achieve. So, please read and enjoy these stories, and share them widely.
The Charity Governance Awards is organised by the Clothworkers’ Company, in partnership with Reach Volunteering, NPC and Prospectus.
The winners were announced at a ceremony at the Clothworkers Hall in London on Wednesday 24 May 2017.
Reach is excited to announce a new partnership with Community Impact Bucks (CIB). Through this partnership skilled volunteering vacancies in Buckinghamshire will be streamed live on Community Impact Bucks’ dedicated volunteering website. This will make roles easier to find and more prominent.
As the accredited Volunteer Centre for Buckinghamshire, Community Impact Bucks promotes volunteering, and also helps and advises organisations to find the volunteers they need.
Posting vacancies for trustees and other skills-based volunteers will give local charities and non-profit organisations access to the thousands of skilled volunteers registered with Reach. CIB will also continue to promote Reach to prospective volunteers in Buckinghamshire.
Nick Phillips, CIB chief executive, says: ‘We are really excited about our new partnership with Reach. They have over 35 years of experience of making worthwhile connections between charities and experienced volunteers. I know this will be of real benefit to our local organisations.’
Janet Thorne, Reach chief executive officer, adds: ‘Our volunteers can make a real difference to a charity or non-profit group. They have several years of experience and a huge range of expertise. They are interested in using it to have a positive impact in communities and society. I’m thrilled that charities and organisations in Buckinghamshire will benefit from our new partnership.’
The trustee and skills-based vacancy streaming will be going live this spring. In the meantime, Buckinghamshire organisations are encouraged to make use of Reach and to post all appropriate vacancies on the Reach website.