A diverse board of trustees with a wide range of skills and experiences is an asset to any charity. It can play an integral part in helping you to achieve your mission and can offer useful guidance on how to address new challenges. But according to research from Civil Society, only 14% of charities feel well-equipped to meet the compliance, strategic and development needs facing their organisation. The same research shows that 59% of charity boards are not representative of the communities they serve.
So, what can you do to recruit the best possible trustees for your organisation? How do you attract candidates with the perfect mix of backgrounds and skills to work constructively with your leadership team and drive positive change? Here are our top tips.
1. Conduct a trustee skills gap analysis
We often talk about conducting a skills gap analysis before beginning recruitment for a paid role. We would advise that you do the same with trustees. There is no such thing as a perfect trustee board. In fact, the mix of people and skills that you have on your board is likely to change over time, depending on your organisation’s current challenges and priorities. But to figure out who you need right now, it is worth asking yourself the following questions:
- What skills do you currently have on the board?
- What challenges is your charity likely to face in the next three years?
- Is there a gap between the skills needed to meet these challenges and the board’s existing skills?
You might also want to consider whether a broader diversity of experience is likely to enhance your board? Your answers to the above questions should form the basis of your trustee job ad.
2. Write a compelling job ad
Writing an excellent job advert is key to enticing the ideal trustee to your charity. Here are some top tips:
Keep it simple–Your job ad should be clear and succinct. A straightforward and conversational style tends to be most effective.
Remember to convey your charity’s unique goals–Make sure that your charity’s mission is evident from the outset, and that you’ve described how you would like the newly appointed person to help you achieve your goals.
List the specific skills you’re looking for–It’s important to list the sector-specific skills to attract the right candidates. A passionate and highly skilled trustee can propel your charity in the right direction and help you meet your specific challenges.
Consider what your potential candidate wants to get from the role–Any job role is of mutual benefit to both the candidate and the charity; the role of a trustee is no different. Step into the shoes of the candidate and assess the benefits they would reap, be it through gaining useful experience, attending training, or anything else.
3. Promote your trustee job ad
Once you’ve written your job ad, you need to seek out the best channels to promote it. You might consider the following:
Promote internally–This is an easy way of getting your staff to spread the word to relevant contacts. It has the benefits of being both cheap and efficient.
Promote on social media–Social media platforms offer a wider reach and enable easy monitoring of the ad’s performance. LinkedIn and Twitter especially, have been reported to be effective for trustee recruitment. Remember to promote the role outside of your charity’s immediate online network to entice more diverse talent.
Promote the role on trustee websites–Advertising for voluntary roles is free on CharityJob. You might also consider other free ad listing platforms such as Trustees Unlimited and Do-it. These are great when you’re seeking candidates with specific specialist skills for the trustee role. Bar in the community is a perfect platform to advertise the role amongst barristers and other trained law professionals who are keen to volunteer their time.
4. Shortlist and interview relevant candidates
Hopefully, your well-placed advertising will mean that applications quickly start rolling in. Your next step will be to start your shortlisting and then to interview your top candidates. You might consider involving some of your charity’s beneficiaries in the interviews. This will help you gauge how candidates interact with the people or communities that your organisation serves.
Structuring the interview
Begin by introducing your charity’s objectives and other valuable information that the candidate needs to know. Ask them whether they would like you to explain the role of a trustee.
Unlike a formal interview for a paid position, a trustee interview should be more conversational. Ask each of your prepared questions but keep it casual. If you’re looking for candidates with a specific background or skillset (e.g., law or digital marketing), be sure to present the challenges that your charity is facing in these areas and ask them how they would approach these.
Remember to leave plenty of time at the end for the candidate to ask questions and confirm what the next steps will be.
5. Appoint the right person
So, you’ve found your ideal future trustee. What next? Every charity is different, and your organisation is likely to have its own set of criteria that trustees are expected to meet. This will be set out in your charity’s governing document. The main thing is to confirm to the person in writing that they have been appointed along with the date that this becomes effective. The Register of Charities should be updated to include their name and surname and the Charity Commission should be provided with their contact details. When the Register is updated, your new trustee will also receive a Charity Commission Welcome pack, which will be useful to them in their role. Now, all that remains is to plan a perfect induction.
Learn from the process
We hope that the above steps will help you to find the ideal trustees for your charity. We’d suggest that you evaluate your recruitment campaign once you‘ve appointed your candidate(s) to reflect on what has worked well. Feel free to ask your new trustees what they thought of the process and how you could improve it next time round!