Charity Trustee Recruitment - How To Find, Recruit And Appoint Trustees For Your Board

Finding, recruiting and appointing charity trustees can be challenging and the continuing lack of diversity on many boards seriously limits their effectiveness. However, there's a great deal that can be done, lots of support from charities that deserve to be better known and most of it is free.

Be Clear On The Skills & Experience You Need

The first step is to carry out a skills and diversity review of your board. Really effective boards have both the professional skills needed and are diverse. However, to be effective, most boards should usually be no more than about a dozen trustees. Just recruiting whoever's available isn't usually a good idea, yet that's what very many charities still do. The fact that trusteeship is a volunteer role, doesn't remove the obligation to recruit on an equal opportunities basis, diverse boards are more effective and doing so is most likely to source the best candidate.

Making Your Adverts Work Well

Ensure your adverts are in clear, simple English and include the time commitment and length of appointment. For under-represented groups, think about barriers to joining that may exist for them and be clear how you will deal with these. For example, some people may not think they will be listened to, or have the board level skills they might think they need and some may need financial support.  Make clear how much their input would be valued and that support will be available, such as an induction programme, development opportunities, mentoring and paying expenses. And not everyone has a CV, so perhaps application by letter, without asking for a CV, and leave it to the applicant to attach one, or not. You can explore the detail at interview.

Using The Right Communication Channels

To engage people, use the communications channels that will reach them, talk about what is important to them and in their language. For those who may not be online, posters/flyers in your facilities, or local shops and libraries etc can work well. For those who are, you can use your social media, website and e newsletters. Trustees or other supporters may work for major companies, or belong to professional, or other networks and may be able to use these to advertise your role.

However, that's still a very limited pool, so always advertise more widely. Fortunately, there are some fantastic charities working hard to support you, by not only posting roles, but also providing great resources too, and it's free.

  • Small Charities Coalition supports networks of charity trustees and also runs Trustee Finder, a free national network of trustees and management committee members.
  • Reach Volunteering runs a trustee recruitment service which is free to charities with a turnover of under £1m. Roles are posted to their online community, and through partner sites like LinkedIn. They recruit over 450 trustees a year.
  • Getting on Board helps individuals, employers and members of professional networks become new leaders in communities through board-level volunteering. They provide a free service to charities to post their vacancies and find new trustees.
  • NCVO have Trustee Bank, which is free to NCVO members.
  • The Honorary Treasurers Forum will advertise your treasurer vacancies.

And the FSI runs its Emerging Executives programme to encourage future business leaders to join charity boards. Or, you could post your role on Twitter, using the Trusteeship Matters account (@TrusteeshipM).

Sourcing Specialist Trustees

There are also other organisations that can help source volunteers for specialist roles.

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) has a recruitment portal, which provides free access for volunteer roles to its 134,000 members.
  • Bar in the Community operates a free service for those, in England and Wales, looking for legally qualified trustees.
  • If you're in Scotland, Corporate to Community might be of interest.
  • The Media Trust can help find communications volunteers.
  • For young trustees, you could post in the Young Charity Trustees Face Book or LinkedIn groups. And, if you're a young trustee yourself, why not join them?
  • For HR trustees and pro bono (for small charities) contact the Frazer Jones Volunteer Network.

If you're in Northern Ireland, Community NI and Volunteer Now will help you.

And, don't forget that volunteer roles can be posted for free on some job boards, such as Charity Job and TPP, a charity sector recruitment agency. As long as you're registered with the Big Give, you can upload a trustee advert which will also be displayed on reed.co.uk.   

Many of the charity sector recruitment agencies can help with sourcing trustee candidates. This has the benefit of engaging recruitment professionals and also in tapping into their networks, but obviously costs money. And there is no end of useful guidance, from finding new trustees, to eligibility, recruitment, induction and selection to beneficiaries and young people on boards to finding digital trustees.

Always Appoint The Best

Finally, appoint the candidate who most closely fits your requirements and will be able to contribute most, always. Being a trustee should be fun, but it's not a game.

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