Charity trustees and how to recruit them

7th March 2019

By Mark Dickinson, Partner

Heading up the Wise & Co Charities Team, I’m often approached by charity and not for profit clients for advice and assistance over and above audit or accounting issues.  Recruitment of trustees is a key example as it’s arguably one of the biggest challenges that charitable organisations face.  Given the responsibilities that trustees take on, particularly in terms of safeguarding the organisation’s future, it’s important that the recruitment process is carefully thought through in order to find and attract the right kind of people. 

Here are some of my thoughts about how to approach it.

  1. Diversity and skills

It’s well known that a board will benefit from diversity.  A broader diversity should bring fresh ideas and approaches to the way things are done and how to tackle new challenges.  Trustees will draw on their backgrounds, their professions and their own experiences when working with their charity.  Selecting trustees from a broad range of backgrounds will work to your advantage and will extend the skillset available to you.

  1. Time

One of the biggest frustrations is often people’s time.  The amount required of their trustees will vary from one charitable organisation to another.  In fact sometimes it’s the slightly smaller charities, which may require more time, as they don’t have the key resources internally, therefore necessitating a more hands on approach.  So, it’s a good idea to give potential trustees an idea of the amount of time that might be required of them including any meetings that you would like them to attend.  Furthermore, if you’re a charity which sets a fixed period for your trustees to act, then let interested people know how long it’s for.  If they find out the role is only for a limited period instead of an indefinite one, they might be more encouraged to apply.

  1. Social cause

Try to find potential trustees who have an interest in the social cause and key work that your organisation carries out so that they have a deeper commitment to you.  They’ll understand the issues that you face and the impact of the decisions you’re making.

  1. Where do you find potential trustees?

Use a range of channels to find trustees.  So, don’t just rely on word of mouth or on people you know, extend your search to find fresh talent.  Use social media, such as LinkedIn or dedicated charity websites such as Reach Volunteering or NCVO’s Trustee Bank.

  1. Skills: Write a description of the trustee’ role

Think carefully about the skills you already have available via your existing trustees and assess where you have gaps or could do with additional resource.  Then write a description for the vacancy, which will also help the other trustees understand the role and what you’re looking for.  Don’t overlook the younger generation either as they often bring a new and innovative approach particularly when it comes to digital and social media skills.

Trustees have overall responsibility for how a charity is run and so finding the right people can take time.  But once you’ve filled the position I’d also suggest that you review how you achieved it and how you might do things differently to improve the process.

Have you found it difficult to find a trustee for your charity?  Let us know your experiences and your tips, and see how we can help you.

About the author

Mark is Head of Wise & Co’s charity and not for profit team.  He joined Wise & Co as a trainee in 1987 and over the years he has worked on a wide range of clients ranging from those in the charity and not for profit sector to owner managed businesses and legal practices.  He maintains a very practical approach to problem solving, dovetailing technical advice with an organisation’s or a business’ overall aspirations for the future.

Share article