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.
On Monday 16th Nov I pedalled my way to City Hall, Tower Bridge to attend the Inspiring Trusteeship Conference. The event was organised by Greater London Volunteering in partnership with us at Reach and Team London, who provided the glorious City Hall as the venue. Everything was offered pro-bono – a zero budget / no charge conference.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘inspiring’ doesn’t necessarily spring to mind as an obvious prefix to Trusteeship, but as the day unfolded, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and learnt from the day.
The day started formally, in City Hall’s great Chamber. After the delegates made their way up the gently sloping, spiral ramp, Cameron the chair of GLV introduced himself and guest speakers Dr Alice Maynard CBE and Leon Ward. Alice gave an insightful analysis of trusteeship, focusing on the importance of challenging perspectives on the board and inciting debate amongst members to spark development. I listened avidly as she spoke about her own experience as a trustee and CEO.
Next came Leon, bringing the ‘young persons’ view, which made for a good comparison. At 23, he’d already held many trustee positions and he spoke candidly about his own personal development through trusteeship. He was able to demonstrate how important it was to have a fresh perspective on a trustee board; be it through a younger generation of trustees or implementing maximum terms.
This discussion was followed seamlessly, with a more focused conversation on the specific CEO and Chair relationship within the charity context and beyond. This panel included Ros Oakley (Association of Chairs), Gerald Oppenheim (Chair of The Camden Society), David Gold (Prospectus) and Charles Smith (Chair of the Governing Body at Burdett-Coutts & Townshend Foundation CE Primary School). Afterwards, the floor was opened to questions and I had the important task of handling the roving mic. The Q&A afterwards was lively, particularly when a passing comment on power vs leadership roused many in the audience.
After my 15 minutes of fame, I lingered at the back of the Chamber to watch Janet, Reach’s CEO, present a descriptive Pecha Kucha (in case you don’t know what Pecha Kucha is, check out this link). Her five minutes sharp, were just enough for her to explain a little about our new online service and the tools that it offers for charities looking to find great trustees. As the first of four presentations, she masterfully handled the pressure and left the room awash with questions which was continued during the networking time in the market place, where the Reach stand was inundated with people enquiring into our service.
The other four pecha kucha presentations also provided valuable information in a short space of time, with NCVO on their PQASSO quality mark, as well as the Association of Chairs, Russell Cooke LLP and the Cranfield Trust.
Following lunch, the entire group made its way back up the spiralling ramp, an interesting commute but definitely not the most efficient, to the Chamber where we heard Reena Pastakia talk about her experience of becoming a trustee. I enjoyed listening to her speak. Perhaps it was hearing about the exciting organisation that she’d become a trustee for, Sound Seekers. Or maybe it was just a nice story to listen to, but I thought it split the conference up nicely, allowing for a good balance between discussion and presentation. She spoke inspiringly about how the position had made a huge difference in her life as well as what she had contributed. (You can see Reena speaking the picture above).
For the last hour or so, delegates chose one of four workshops to attend. These were: Legal updates for Trustees, Tips for recruiting great Trustees, Introduction to Trusteeship and Funding landscape in London. I sat in on Introduction to Trusteeship, presented by Janet, who spoke in depth about the significance of any trustee role and the challenges that it may present. After taking a stab at defining the ‘ideal’ trustee board, she settled on the term ‘Critical Friend‘. This is used to refer to the board that is able to challenge and scrutinise its CEO effectively.
The workshop slid nicely onto an interactive chat on Risk vs. Innovation. One of the key points brought up here, was the importance of a board that proactively manages risk rather than avoiding it. The audience seemed more than eager to contribute and some thought provoking points were raised.
To round the workshop off, the group were asked to form smaller teams and then to complete a small task which involved coming up with a strategy needed to solve a specific problem. Despite it coming up to 4 o’clock in a day full of information and chatting with various people, the group remained engaged; a positive evaluation of the event, I thought.
Whilst the last delegates mingled, the Reach team re-grouped and discussed the conference. It seemed we’d all had a good time, achieved a lot and learnt something. For me, it was important to see the great work that people contribute to organisations everywhere, harnessing a lifetime of experience to benefit others. I suppose this is how I find trusteeship inspiring – that people are willing to offer their own skills in a position of huge responsibility, that reverberates globally in some cases but which largely goes unnoticed and mostly un-applauded, except for at events such as these.
Thanks again to GLV and Team London for hosting the event. You can find some of the presentations from the event on the GLV website.
Have you ever considered trusteeship?
Many of us volunteer our time to causes that are close to our hearts but even some of the most dedicated, long term volunteers have failed to consider trusteeship as something they could actually do.
As a trustee recruiter and trustee myself, I often find that few people know about it and those who do, are unsure of how to become one. In addition to this, there are many misconceptions about who can become a trustee: most wrongly assume that you have to be middle-aged or retired with a huge portfolio of achievements and extensive non-executive experience. Whilst this is sometimes the case, being a trustee is a much broader undertaking than simply applying a narrow band of professional skills.
Last year I had started out sharing my experience on why being a trustee was a great opportunity. It’s been more than a year as a trustee and while I do still feel the same, I also seem to have discovered new motivations along the way which seem to go beyond mere career aspirations. So here’s an account of why becoming a trustee is a great opportunity personally and professionally.
Trusteeship in a nutshell
Simply put, trustees are Board members who govern a charity. As a trustee you’d be helping a charity run efficiently according to its mission, strategy and objectives set out in its governing document. You will not be managing but will be working towards developing an overarching strategy, keeping it risk free, compliant along with a duty of care and prudence to its beneficiaries.
Your role as a trustee could be that of a chair, treasurer or a general trustee or a trustee with specific functional expertise. Your effectiveness as a trustee will depend on:
Small and large organisations expect different levels of engagement from their trustees. However, regardless of the size of your organisation, make sure to research your charity, connect with staff and trustees and stay engaged and focussed. For more details refer to the Charity Commission’s simple yet well written guidance document ‘The essential trustee: what you need to know (CC3)’.
Why I became a Trustee
I’ve been extensively involved in introducing professionals as trustees within the charity sector and have encountered a wide variety of reasons for why people become trustees. I became a trustee to improve my career prospects and to get strategic and leadership experience. Having spent more than a year as a trustee, there have been both satisfying and challenging moments. The challenging ones are the typical ones to name a few i.e. trying to balance my time between my day job and trustee meetings; trying to balance my involvement in operational matters and governance matters. These are never easy to get right but have definitely improved my ability to manage time better and prioritise. The rewarding moments are those where the Board begins to view you as a valued member for your decision making and problem solving skills that helped them take a step in the right direction.
Personally I have developed the courage to challenge and support decisions, learnt to appreciate the strengths of other Board members I work with and communicate objectively and constructively. I have realised that to become a trustee it is not enough to be passionate about it but to be able to stick by and be accountable to all things going well and not so well.
How you can become a Trustee
The nature of boards is changing and there is a need for diverse trusteeship. There is also an uptake of trusteeship from professionals these days so make the most of this opportunity and come forward. You as a potential trustee can now show the following: soft-skills; vocational skills both relevant and transferable, and personal experience all of which add context and depth to strategic decision-making. If you are someone who can stay committed and devote sufficient time, make a genuine contribution as a member on Board and be accountable then this one is for you.
You can become a trustee in three easy ways:
Research the charity you like, reach out to them and explore the many possibilities of engaging with them. Go on! Become a trustee if you aren’t already one, it’s a journey waiting to be explored.
For those who are already trustees come forward and share your experiences thoughts and contributions. Let’s celebrate trusteeship!
(This blog also appeared on the Trustees’ Week website.)
Trustees’ Week is a chance to celebrate and recognise the valuable work that trustees’ do. We want to highlight some of the people who want to help change our society through volunteering their skills in a trustee position.
With the introduction of our new online service you can – for the first time – search and view the skills of the people who want to contribute their time and expertise! This is huge benefit for charities as they can see the real people behind their CV’s and contact them directly.
Charly Young is a one of these potential volunteers signed up on our service and looking to be a trustee. We spoke to Charly about why she wants a position on a board:
Why did you sign up?
As the Director of a quickly-growing charity, I feel I am in the enviable position of both having a lot to offer and having a lot to learn! In 3 years we have grown The Girls’ Network from a small charity working with just 30 girls, to now provide more than 600 girls from low-income communities across the South East with a personal mentor for the year.
I am very excited both by the opportunity to share what we have learnt with others, but also to broaden my experience working with and learning from a charity in another sector or placing different challenges.
What sort of skills do you have to offer a charity?
From finance and fundraising bids to running workshops, volunteer management to writing policies, starting a new charity means you end up learning a lot about a lot very quickly!
As a former teacher, I know the way the education sector operates well, and now head up the Strategy and Expansion of The Girls’ Network. This ranges from creating target operating models and KPIs, to creating partnerships and fundraising.
We also manage more than 600 volunteers and run training for women and girls throughout the year, so I am skilled in development engagement strategies and addressing risk and quality assurance.
What sort of voluntary position are you looking for?
I am looking for a Trustee position in a charity where I can use my broad range of skills in directing a charity in a different capacity. I could be most hands-on if this were based in London (and I know from experience that good ‘hands-on’ Trustees are invaluable!).
My background is in education, so any charity in this space would fit comfortably into the networks I am part of, however I would be equally excited to share my knowledge and experience of growing a charity and planning strategy with an organisation in an entirely different sector, too.
Thanks to Charly for speaking to us about her background and what she is looking for. You can see her profile and get in contact with Charly directly via the website.
The importance of etiquette and best practice in the recruitment of volunteers has been a long overlooked feature of volunteering, despite its importance, not only to the individual volunteers and charities but to the sector at large. As a specialist in trustee and volunteer recruitment, etiquette is an issue I see often and it is one which I believe has a bigger impact on the spirit of volunteerism than many might suspect.
I’m sure that most people would agree that volunteers are the lifeblood of the charity sector and that without them the majority of charities would flounder or run aground completely. Why is it then that every week my colleagues and I find ourselves consoling extremely capable and highly-experienced, prospective volunteers following a negative experience regarding a volunteer recruitment process?
The most common cause of disgruntlement among many aspiring volunteers stems from a simple lack of communication: a volunteer has applied for a role and simply never heard back. Often the case is slightly more personal however. For example, I have spoken to many volunteers who have been acknowledged by the recruiting organisation, who have discussed the role on the phone and, in many cases, have even been interviewed for the role. Imagine then, after this investment of time and energy, how a prospective volunteer might feel if they were simply forgotten about?
The knock-on effects of poor communication with applicants to a voluntary role are further-reaching than you might think. At best, the charity sector’s competence has been undermined and the organisation concerned suffers negatively as a result of word-of-mouth interactions within the volunteer community. At worst, the sector at large may have lost a valuable asset: someone who desires to contribute their free time and energy to a good cause has been irrevocably dissuaded from volunteering.
As an intermediary between volunteers and charities, we at Reach are often on the front line of such grievances and are left apologising on behalf of charities for having been left hanging by an organisation they were excited to contribute to. This is a sad state of affairs, particularly when you consider that many volunteers are reaching out to the sector in the hope of contributing their valuable spare time in aid of a cause they genuinely care about.
Many such people who have been treated with indifference or left in the cold during a volunteer recruitment process feel jaded, their good intentions and willingness to offer their time and expertise having been spurned. In many cases, not only has their confidence in the organisation concerned been shaken but their faith in the charity sector at large has been undermined and, in many cases, their appetite to volunteer is significantly diminished or gone altogether. It’s completely understandable. It is also completely avoidable.
Communication is nine-tenths of the law in any recruitment process and this is no less the case when it comes to volunteers. Whether you’re working toward appointing new trustees, skilled professionals to bolster your organisation’s infrastructure or you’re looking for the next Great British Bake-Off finalist to raise some valuable funds, the need for clear communication and an acknowledgment of the volunteers’ generous offer to help is not just essential, it’s good manners.
Bearing this in mind, it’s worth considering a few easy steps any organisation can take to ensure that their recruitment process is as considerate and empathetic as the volunteers who are offering their expertise and time:
It’s worth remembering that the sector relies of the good will, passion, expertise and experience of our volunteers and, as fellow charities, it’s essential that we consider the bigger picture when it comes to the gracious and grateful handling of those people who make our work possible. By fostering positive interactions with prospective volunteers, we enable their transition to other charities in the future and reinforce the positive spirit of volunteerism across the entire sector.
Volunteering is itself the perfect metaphor for this approach as it embodies that essence of good will that underpins the invaluable work that the sector contributes, reminding us that we are indeed all in it together.
For more guidance around working with volunteers, visit our new Knowledge Centre.
When Fiona Spellman approached us looking for a volunteer role, she brought a wealth of valuable skills such as teaching, project managing, impact measurement, planning and monitoring programme delivery. She is currently Senior Programme Manager with the SHINE Trust and previously taught in a secondary school through the Teach First programme. We connected her with TalentEd, a charity which brings together retired teachers with bright students from low income backgrounds. Fiona joined as a trustee in 2014.
TalentEd offers high-ability Year 10 students a year-long programme of weekly small group (1:6) sessions. Qualified, retired teachers and inspirational role models help to improve GCSE grades and academic and career options for the young people. Every young person should have the support, skills and aspirations to realise their potential. Sadly, this is not the case for young people from low income areas in the UK and educational inequality is highest amongst the brightest students.
When Fiona was appointed, TalentEd was working in 3 schools but with big potential to expand. In order to demonstrate success they needed a trustee who had a depth of experience in measuring impact in the education of bright but disadvantaged children.
Fiona Spellman said “Initially I wanted to volunteer to teach children but after registering with Reach, I quickly learnt of the trustee vacancy with TalentEd and thought the strategic role would be particularly suitable and where my skills could be put to good use.“
Fiona has helped the organisation to grow from working with 3 schools to 9, increase the central staff team and numbers of volunteers, and show that the charity can double the number of bright students from low income areas achieving A and A* grades. The impact data Fiona produced helped to articulate TalentEd’s offer to funders and schools. The charity has now started working outside of London in Kent and East Sussex where educational inequality is most acute.
TalentEd’s Director, Anood Al-Samerai, says “Fiona is a brilliantly intelligent and experienced trustee bringing a great balance of support and challenge to the board and the staff team. She has made a transformative difference to the organisation, way beyond her formal board responsibility for evaluation and impact measurement. As a trustee, Fiona does not directly work on the front line, but her energy and commitment to our governance and strategy means that we can achieve our vision of giving every young person the support, skills and aspirations to realise their potential.“
It’s great to hear stories like this and the difference a volunteer or trustee has made to an organisation. If you need to find a trustee, search our new website. The new features mean you can search the register of skilled volunteers and for the skills you need. You can also contact volunteers directly to ask them to apply for your opportunity. Search for a trustee now.
Trustees’ week is here again. An annual event, falling this year between 2-8 November, it showcases the great work trustees do. The week also coincides with Guy Fawkes Day, another annual event celebrating a foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Happily, trustees, members of boards and management committees are united by their wish to create a more positive change in society.
What is a trustee?
A trustee essentially leads a charity. You can see more on the Trustees’ Week website. They say: “Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They may be called trustees, directors, board members, governors or committee members, but they are the people with ultimate responsibility for directing the business of the charity. They are often the unsung heroes, playing a vital role, volunteering their time, working together to make the decisions that really matter about the charity’s finances, activities and plans for the future.”
Anyone over 18 can be a trustee. Gone are the days when trustees were older more conservative members of society. The young and dynamic can get involved and we would encourage anyone who wants to increase their experience, responsibility and with a passion for social change to explore a possible trustee role. The Charity Commission give more guidance about what’s involved.
So how did Trustees’ Week come about?
In October 2010, in conjunction with Reach and a number of national organisations, the Charity Commission launched Trustees’ Week to highlight the invaluable work done by trustees nationwide. We hope that even more people will be encouraged to consider becoming trustees by being made aware of the opportunities which exist to make a real difference in society. Trustees’ Week 2015 is our sixth annual celebration. We draw attention to the opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved – no formal qualifications are usually needed, and many charities especially smaller ones need more trustees.
To read inspiring stories about what trustees from all walks of life have achieved and for events, news and support go to the Trustees’ Week website.
We are thrilled to be involved with Trustees’ Week and help to raise awareness of the valuable trustee role. The importance of a charity’s board cannot be overstated and it’s well worth investing in a recruitment process that adds genuine value to the board, introducing you to the right people to lead your charity to success.
We recognised the need for a dedicated trustee finder service so in 2009 we launched TrusteeWorks. Having now placed well over 1,000 trustees, we are happy to report TrusteeWorks has become the largest supplier of trustees to the sector (we also have a free Matching service to charities under £1M turnover, which we launched in 2013).
Resources for Trustees and Boards
At Reach have plenty of advice at hand on how to be or find a good trustee. Here are some resources you might find useful from Luke and Bilwa in our TrusteeWorks team:
For prospective trustees
For charities recruiting trustees
There is a free governance conference on Monday 16th November at City Hall. Organised by Greater London Volunteering, Team London and Reach the conference includes: a session about trustee diversity in the morning, a panel about chief executive/chair relationships, a speed pitching session, and workshops in the afternoon. Book your place here.
You can also find more resources about trusteeship on the Trustees’ Week website.
And what sort of impact do trustees have?
We often speak to the charities we work with to find out the impact the trustees placed through us have made. Here’s what a selection of them have said:
“Angela has brought a lot more to the charity. She has experience of writing company strategies. She is focused on turning information into actions.”
Board Chairman, Jim Grassick, Independent Options
“With a working history at TFL, Giles is our marketing expert on the board. He has done a tremendous amount of promotion for us and has had a phenomenal impact. We depend on getting the word out for our income and Giles has used a mixture of social media, events and website to create maximum coverage.”
Chair of trustees, Caroline Clark, The Brix at St Matthews
“We were very happy with Matthew’s placement. We had needed someone with HR knowledge for some time. Matthew has brought the HR skills we needed and also other experience such as organisational change management. His impact has been felt in his willingness to take an active part in the Board’s work.”
Board Member, Hazel McGrath, Alternatives to Violence
“We are very grateful to Reach for playing an important role in enabling us to rejuvenate our Board. Like many – perhaps most – voluntary organisations, the year ahead is going to be very difficult for us, but with Reach’s help, we are in a better position to face it.”
Peter Senker, Crossroads Care East Sussex, Brighton & Hove
“Thank you, as ever, for an excellent professional service, without which the Counselling and Family Centre would very much be struggling to recruit volunteers of anything like the calibre of the candidate you sent to us.”
Geoff Urwin, The Counselling & Family Centre
As you can see, the work and value of trustees is massive and they make a huge contribution to UK charities and our society at large. Trustees’ Week is a chance to celebrate, highlight and recognise their work – I do hope you’ll join us in doing so!
Every trustee knows that recruiting new board-members can be a daunting task. How do you find someone who really cares about your cause with the right skills and experience, a personality and background which complements the existing board members as well as the time available to make a genuine contribution?
Given that most boards aren’t static and the needs of both the organisation and the individual trustees are constantly changing, recruiting new board members is an on-going issue for most non-profits. That’s why getting your board to agree on a structured and thorough approach to recruitment is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the long-term governance of your organisation is not only secure but efficient, well-rounded and fit to take on whatever challenges may lie ahead.
1. Get the Board on-board:
The whole board needs to be engaged with the process of recruiting new members. The first step of any recruitment process is to ensure that you know what you really need. The best way to go about this is to conduct a skills-audit. Bear in mind the direction of the organisation and anticipated projects or challenges that may be faced in the future, to ascertain the kind of expertise the board will need to make well-rounded and informed decisions.
2. Draw up an interesting role description
Once you have identified the key skills and experience your board needs to excel, it’s time to draw up a role description. Try to avoid focusing on the standard duties of a trustee, instead highlight the most interesting aspects of the role. For instance, outlining the challenges faced by the organisation as well as its future prospects will breathe life into the role and give a sense of what issues the new trustee will be engaging with in real terms. In addition, it’s always a good idea to include a sense of what the impact of the role will be on the organisation and what benefits the new trustee can expect to receive by joining the board.
To ensure you get a diverse mix of applications, it’s really important to promote the role as widely as possible. Many organisation still limit their recruitment process to their personal network of connections and, whilst this may prove effective and save a little time, in the long run it’s much more beneficial for the organisation as a whole to look further afield: advertise externally using online job-boards, utilise social media, create a page on your website advertising the role and don’t rule out utilising a recruitment service. The quality and number of applicants is going to be largely dependent on how thorough and broad your publicity of the role is. Remember, there are a whole host of free resources out there specifically designed to help non-profits source trustees from a broader pool of candidates: TrusteeWorks, Small Charities Coalition Trustee Finder, Do-It, CharityJob, NCVO Trustee Bank.
4. Communication, communication, communication
It’s really important to ensure that, when you have received applications you make prompt contact with the applicants. Due to voluntary nature of the role, it’s wrong to assume that an applicant will remain interested indefinitely, particularly if there is a significant gap between receiving the application and interview. Taking the time to thank your applicants for their application and to set out a clear time-frame for the process reinforces the professional approach of your organisation and works wonders in retaining a candidate’s interest up until the point of interview.
5. Short-listing and Interview
Hooray! You’ve chosen a new board member! This is great news but you’re work isn’t done yet. To make sure that your new trustee takes the role seriously and, equally, is empowered to work to the best of their abilities you need to ensure that they have a clear, in-depth understanding of how the organisation functions. Make sure they have a copy of the memorandum and articles of association. If they are new to trusteeship, direct them to the appropriate resources so that they are completely clear about their responsibilities. Arrange an opportunity to meet the staff and, most importantly, the CEO, to get a feel for who runs the organisation and how they do it. If there are still minor question marks over the new board member, invite them to join board meetings as an observer. It’s better to make sure you have the right person in place through careful induction than to end up with a trustee that doesn’t fit the bill.
As in any job, it’s important to ensure that your new trustee is comfortable in their role and that they feel supported and empowered to contribute to the decision making of the board to the best of their ability. To this end, it’s really useful to touch base with the new trustee 3-6 months after their appointment. This is usually undertaken by the Chair in a private setting that allows any issues or concerns to arise outside the scrutiny of the board. This is also a really valuable moment to take stock of the trustee’s initial impressions; remember that they bring a fresh pair of eyes to the practices of the board, the culture of the organisation and its future prospects. For this reason, it may well be the case that they have noticed things which longstanding board members have not.
This blog by Luke was originally published on the Third Sector blog.