The Benefits of Bringing Young Trustees On Board

According to an article published in the Independent earlier this year, there are more people called David and Steve that lead FTSE 100 companies than there are women and ethnic minorities at the top of those companies. This drove me to the question – how do facts like this impact young people looking to advance in our sector? Particularly young people from diverse backgrounds who don’t see themselves reflected at the top of these organisations. Although not all young people are aiming for an FTSE 100 company, it’s a matter of being able to envision themselves in a position of power. If we don’t have enough diversity leading in example, how will the next generation find the motivation to take charge?

At the Roundhouse, we looked at our board of trustees and felt that by including young trustees we could inspire other young people we worked with to aim for positions of power. To know that we valued their opinion – and could give them the opportunity to lead early on in their careers – did incredible things for their confidence.

This is why we created our youth governance guide, Guided by Young Voices, featuring examples of young people taking charge across the sector. We were aware that more and more organisations wanted to make this change but needed some practical tips to get started. Over the last year, we’ve had hundreds of conversations about this work and about the challenges each organisation is up against. Here at some of the most common issues organisations had in onboarding young trustees and ways to overcome them.

Convincing your board

This is a huge challenge for some organisations – many people tell us they know the importance of diversity, but some boards are stuck in their ways. Diversity has to be owned by everyone, not just championed by one or two people. For this, there are two arguments – benefits to the business and the opportunity for development for young people.

The arguments need to be made clearly but the board has to be taken on a journey if there is reluctance. Having an away day to openly discuss potential challenges and concerns is a great way to address any misconceptions or fears head-on.

Convincing young people to take on the role

Being a trustee can seem so out of reach to young people. We need to educate them about what being a trustee entails and that years of businesses experience isn’t the only skill required. Of course, there is a big responsibility on the shoulders of a young person if they take this on and we shouldn’t shy away from stressing this level of responsibility. But it also shouldn’t be a barrier.

There are simple steps you can take to find suitable young people – or other beneficiaries of your charity if more appropriate. We have the Roundhouse Youth Advisory Board (RYAB) which acts as a feeder to the applications. Some organisations won’t have this, but we advise you to start with your own community; perhaps your service users or young people online who have an interest in your charity or mission.

The application process also needs to be accessible so as not acting as a barrier. Be open to questions from young people about the role or hold an evening where they can meet other trustees and learn more about what the position entails. Make sure this is reflected in the interview process too. Ask questions that a young person without the years of experience won’t struggle with. But make sure it is still rigorous enough so that they know the role is not tokenistic and that there is a high level of responsibility. Asking about achievements and handling difficult situations can be good questions to focus on.

The board meetings

One question we’ve had many times is, how do we ensure young people are engaged in the actual meetings? This is something you should ask at the very beginning because it will be different for each organisation. You might want to think about the following things:

  • Where the young people physically sit around the table
  • Whether they’re paired with another trustee
  • How to set expectations around reading board papers ahead of meetings and asking questions

But most importantly make sure young trustees have a dedicated slot to talk about the issues they would like to bring to the table. They may not have something every meeting but allowing for that time and space is vital.

Need more advice?

We know it can be a hard process, but we have seen the incredible results it has had for our business. We have fresh ideas, different mindsets and varied approaches which ultimately make us more successful and resilient.

This is why we created the guide and why we’d love to hear from those keen to make this change but in need of advice on how best to approach it within their organisation.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to have a conversation about recruiting young trustees [email protected]

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About the author

Marcus Davey

Marcus Davey is the Chief Executive and Artistic Director at the Roundhouse, a live performance space and creative centre for young people.