How to recruit trustees for your charity

How to recruit trustees for your charity

It is widely acknowledged that charities can find it difficult to recruit trustees with the right experience and skillset.

According to the Charity Commission, approximately one in five charities in the UK has a trustee vacancy; it seems there are many positions available, yet charities often find it a challenge to recruit the right person.

Whether a professional or layperson, the responsibilities belonging to a trustee are demanding. Greater scrutiny, increased focus on governance and funding pressures can be overwhelming to under prepared trustees and recruiting the wrong candidate can have a negative impact on your charity's operations and reputation.

Good trustee recruitment does need investment - but this doesn't always need to be monetary. Time and thought put into your search can mean you find the perfect candidate for the job.

Trustee recruitment: promoting the role

Social media, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, can help promote the trustee role and there are a number of free posting sites, such as Do-it and Trusteefinder. You could even consider using a professional recruitment firm if they have a proven track record of finding trustees; however, small charities and community groups may find it beneficial to at least try promoting the role themselves before turning to professional recruiters. While they may do an excellent job in finding the right candidate, the money spent on their fees may be better spent elsewhere.

It is essential to search outside the boundaries of your charity's networks in order to attract a more diverse range of candidates and recruit the best talent available from this pool. Widening the search is always good practice, even in circumstances where there are strong existing members who may wish to take on the trustee role.

Promoting internally has many benefits – primarily that the person will be familiar with your charity's objectives, culture and processes – however unless you and your board are certain they are the right appointment, it is a worthwhile exercise comparing internal talent with outside candidates. This means that your board will have a broader range of skills, as well as a better mix of people of different ages and backgrounds.

'Selling' a trustee vacancy to candidates

Start by writing a descriptive, punchy advertisement which outlines the role, including what the new trustee's time commitments and meeting schedules would be. In your description you should market the position to make a compelling proposition for the potential candidate; you are passionate about your charity but it can be difficult to communicate this enthusiasm in a couple of paragraphs.

The following gives an outline of what should be covered in the job specification as a minimum:

  • Trustee role title
  • Location (office or home based)
  • Time commitments (for example, full time or a certain number of hours per week)
  • Overall responsibility and key areas of ownership
  • Length of term in office (if it is not permanent)
  • Minimum qualifications/experience

You should also consider what the potential candidate wants to get out of the role. Surveys reveal that the three main reasons people become trustees are to 'give something back', to gain new skills for professional development, and because they are committed to a charity's cause. Think about how your charity can offer these to the successful candidate and detail them in your advertisement.

Interviewing trustees

You should engage the whole board in the recruiting process but also be clear from the start about who is making the decision, whether this is existing trustees or the membership. A clear process needs to be structured for the interview - this should test the motivation of the candidate, as well as their skills and experience.

Always follow up on references of candidates – it's not enough to assume they are a good appointment on the basis of a strong interview – and if your charity works with children or vulnerable adults ensure you carry out a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (formerly CRB check). You should also check that the candidate is not disqualified from being a trustee – this can be done on the Charity Commission website.

Commencing the role

Once a decision has been made, it is wise to have a solid induction in place and a starter pack for the new trustee with useful information regarding your charity. Also arrange meetings between the new recruit and key stakeholders in the business to give them an opportunity to build relationships and form some ideas on how to take your charity forward.


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